Not me: I choose not to be that quiet American that
the powers that be bet on us being
November 7, 2004
Here I am, sitting here, dressed head to toe
in the freedom of expression, blue mascara on my face, and I am
Today began like any other day; wake up with your eyes closed,
shower with your eyes closed, dress without seeing the light,
out the door, and off to study at one of the world's most pretigious
universities. But why today? Why at this very moment, while trying
to focus on the economics of post-Communist reform, did I get
familiar ache in my heart?
It's a feeling I know you know. A
mixed reminder, bringing both sadness and warmth. You remember
you who you are and where you came from, and you remember why
your life will never have completion. No matter how much at that
you feel close to home, no matter how many new homes and identities
you make for yourself, home
will always be a memory, never a reality.
I feel guilty. Why has it been so long since I last found myself
thinking about Iran? Aren't I really the self-proclaimed, Darioush-loving
nationalist that I pride myself on being? Doesn't my love for gojeh
sabz and the game of pasoor prove my authenticity? I suppose life's
just been too busy. The world is hectic. My world even more so.
Even in LA, where all around I see red, white, and green flags
Westwood store windows, I have fallen a victim to forgetfulness.
Not today though.
Today no Iranian will be a victim to past or
circumstance. I will remember. I will remember enough for all
of us. This guilt is too strong for me to push away and out of
mind. None of us are strong enough to suppress our loneliness,
our lost sense of belonging.
I see myself and all the Iranians
around me in this hellish ghorbat so clearly now.
We're all helpless hypocrites, and any one of us who tries
being has been pulling our puppet strings all along is
Why is it that lately, we only think of Iran when Iran thinks
of us? We talk about our country to outsiders when our soccer
team makes some news. We sign petitions and attend an occasional
when our students take to the streets in risk of their
We do what Iranians have been doing since epochs before the creation
of chelo kabab: We sit behind our Persian satellites and wait for
someone else to do what we should be doing ourselves. We don't
take part. We came to America for freedom, but how many of us appreciate
Who attends their kid's PTA meetings? Who knows what
a presidential voting ballot even looks like? Who honestly cares?
I bet Ahmad Batebi would care. I bet he would kill to be where
I am today. I bet he would give his life to have the freedoms
I rarely even give second thought to. I have a feeling Zhila Izadi
would care, too. She's only thirteen, not old enough to vote
Iran's sham elections, yet, old enough to die by stoning.
I don't know about any of you, but today, I am sick of myself.
I am an American in all aspects of the word. But I have this soul
stirring deeply inside of me that is purely Iranian. I, like all
of you, have a responsibility intrinsic to my heritage. My cousins
and your uncles and our grandparents aren't facing oppression halfway
across the world, in the land of Cyrus the Great, so that I, a
21 year old law school hopeful can sit behind a computer screen
all day and read about Latvia and ethnic conflict.
I take pride
in my responsibility today, even if I have ignored it or pushed
it aside in the past. You have a responsibility, too. So many
resources lay at our disposal. Our Americanness and our freedoms
about wearing blue mascara and fluttery skirts. Our freedoms
are the key to freeing our loved ones, our people halfway across
world, all the people all across the world.
If we whose tongues have still not been torn off by the dictators,
do not speak, how can we even dare to claim ourselves as having
any tie to that sacred cradle of civilization? We can't. We would
have no right. Today, I made my choice. I choose to be aware. I
choose not to be that quiet American that the powers that be bet
on us being. They want our silence. They want our inactivity. I
want our empowerment.
The time is here and now. There will never be another day like
today, when you can wake up and see yourself for who you really
are. Today, I saw me. I chose to be me. And I will tell the world
who I am and where I come from until the day they bury my body
on Iranian soil.
I hope when you look in the mirror today, you
remember the sacrifices that are each day made by others who
could have been you. Even if only memories, our Iranian identities
never be left to die, for who would we be without them?