Weight of choice
For now I have to be content with
a seat on the sideline and observe democracy in action
May 14, 2004
With chubby cheeks and out-of-style jeans I got
off the plane in Detroit, Michigan, to a brand new world full
possibilities. I immediately recognized the
potentials: "Really?!? We're closed Saturday AND Sunday?
baahaal!! I love this country!!! Berim McDonalds."
admit it took me a long time to get my arms fully
wrapped around this thing they called democracy, mostly due
to the remoteness of Kalamazoo from everything else on this planet,
and the pitfalls and distractions of adolescence in this
distracting environment. Up until then I was part of a
system that in most part was controlled by a single entity.
With all honesty it was at a time in my life when revolution or
war was a more dramatic and vivid representation of the
board game Risk.
Where I came from, conversations around the
dinner table were dominated by football and politics.
Everyone seemed to have their opinion on the success and
failure of the team and knew exactly who should and
shouldn't play, and the same with world affairs.
Interestingly enough as engaged and interested we seemed
in these topics, there was little involvement or participation
in the proper working of either. By proper I'm obviously
speaking of systematic and long lasting change and progress.
Things seemed different here (aamrikaa).
My introduction to democracy came early. It was in my first
or second year of high school. Joining the soccer team made
my integration into the school easier and I felt somewhat
accepted. As I remember, we were sitting around the table at
lunch with fellow teammates. One of the boys
was broadcasting with utmost authority and confidence his views
on candidates running for the presidency of the United
States. At some point, mostly out of boredom and partly to
shut him up, I blabbered out in broken English,
With a grin on his face he turned and said, "If
Reagan gets elected, they'll throw your foreign ass out of
His grasp of issues was probably close to
a drowning camel but the simple threat of his
statement at a somewhat vulnerable stage of my life reserved
a place for it among the memorable quotes:
asshole Doug!!" (My English was certainly improving day by
It wasn't that I couldn't imagine leaving this
or going back to Iran, just simply didn't like the fact
that I could be kicked out, of anywhere.
As time went on my integration into this society continued.
I've taken on some of the responsibilities required to be
part of this functioning body. I do everything that a good
citizen should do: pay taxes, recycle what I can at home and
office, and try to be involved in issues that effect my
community, covering the 10 square miles
of my house or a bit further out to 10 thousand square
miles. I do everything except the most important.
As integrated as I am I still don't hold that little piece
of paper to officially recognize me as a citizen of this
country, with the rights and privileges
that come with it. Yeah, yeah
know! I should've married an American girl long time ago,
and after getting my Green Card tell Taghi to come over and
get into bed, and wait for my wife to show up so I can act
all surprised and say "Oh honey, I thought u knew!!" Well
didn't, consciously. So here I am some 20 years later, a lot older
and a bit wiser (I should've married an American girl) and willingly
understand my rights as dictated by my status. Right or
wrong this is the path I've chosen.
I often think about if
and when and how I'll ever go back to Iran. Wether its
something that I give serious thought to or entertain as a
feeling of nostalgia, it is something to remain in the back of
my head regardless of the choices I make. But I am now part
of this society and rightfully feel responsible for any
system that I am a part of.
My Responsibilities are many and often global:
Responsibility to listen and lend a hand or a dry shoulder
to a friend when needed, without that the friendship simply
will not work. My responsibility to the landlord to pay the
rent on time and resfrain from activities that lead to
footprints on the ceiling or the bathroom becoming an indoor
swimming pool. The responsibility to not only be engaged and
informed about the issues of the day and their effect on me,
my neighbors and friends, but to be actively involved in the
process that has been designed with my direct participation
in mind. Just like friendship, without my out stretched hand,
the system will simply not work.
All that is yet to come. For now I have to be content with
a seat on the sideline and observe democracy in action. I have
to wait patiently until one sunny day I'll be able to
step up to a ballot box and make my mark and exercise my
responsibility as a citizen. To me Doug and Martin Luther
King hold the same space in time. They both crystallized the
fact that self-determination at whatever level is the most
valued gift anyone could have.
It is a conscious decision. As instinctive as it should be,
it is a conscious decision to live up to the
responsibilities we face as a parent or a friend or a
citizen. We proclaim that self-determination is a right of
every citizen on this planet, yet it seems our
responsibility to such liberties is at the heart of its
validation. It is this simple fact that distinguishes
freedom as a right or a privilege.
If ever anyone attempted to
write the shortest book on workings of democracy, it would require
only a single
quote: "Use it or lose it!"
It is a conscious decision!
goodbye to spam!