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Bound in the land of the free
Displacement is another form of imprisonment

By Maryam Khosharay
October 25, 2000
The Iranian

My cousin Lalah tells me my images of Iran are romanticized illusions. Resolutely she states that the family gatherings, the laughter, and the singing that I see for three fanciful weeks during my yearly visits are aggregates of a façade; a temporary mask concealing the country's collective despair. Without vacillation, she boldly states that what I have in America is true freedom.

I crease my eyebrows in contemplation; "freedom"...a term that has been packaged up, gift wrapped, and defined to conceal it's many layers and interpretations. I am neither ignorant nor blind to the political, social, and cultural turbulence in my country. I see the faces of my relatives: they look at nothingness longer; their laughter is subdued and shallower. I see that they are disillusioned, detached, and caught in a trap of social depression that we pray will soon cease.

Vali aziz, what you do not see is that displacement abroad is another form of imprisonment unjustified in a land of "freedom." The role overload Iranian women confront exists in America as well as in Iran. So, I began to question the conventional concept of freedom, and it's relation to country, culture, and self.

Irrefutably, I am aware that my domicile in the model nation of freedom has granted me free expression, a liberal education, and theoretical egalitarianism. I do not deny that I have taken for granted these certain "freedoms": I can debate political issues in public without fear; I can live in my own apartment in New York city; I am entirely unconfined to wear what I choose; to go where I desire, and make conversation with complete strangers.

Yes, this is one side of "freedom"- but these indulgences come alongside the tight grasps of secularism, hyper-individualism, conspicuous consumption, and career entrapment. Childhood is disappearing and technology is the new God.

Is freedom truly freedom if it can only be bestowed in a mere part of the entire world? Freedom, from my point of reference, surpasses time and place. It is what I felt last spring - walking in enlightened solitude, reflections of Iran in my mind, filling me with serenity.

My minds eye finds peace when it sees the streets of Iran with children playing football, men coming home with warm bread over their shoulders. Freedom is when I wake up at Khale Objies and know that breakfast awaits in a never empty kitchen in a house where people love me unconditionally. Freedom is as simple, or as complex, as the feeling I have when I hear my name said correctly: Mar-yam, not Mary-am.

Freedom is when amidst the confusion on a random street in Manhattan I hear Farsi spoken, and smile because I have just made a connection that surpasses the present and extends into the past and aftertime. It is knowing who I am, where I come from, and feeling at one with the whole. It is the feeling I have when I think of sunsets, laughter, and my mothers smile; the relief and comfort of entering my mothers house and smelling the berenj; drinking chaie with gaz. It is self-definition in an undefined society.

Being an Iranian-American is not about exoticism, flashy cars, or careers in the sciences-it is not about fundamentalism, conservatism, or sexual repression. I do not become "more" Iranian by covering my thick hair, batting my long lashes, and avoiding direct eye contact-nor am I "less" Iranian because I enjoy reading Hindu poetry, admiring risqué art, and drinking red wine.

It is a feeling- a wholeness found in culture, language, scents, and sounds. It is when I cannot eat fruit in the states after consuming the voluptuous meeveh in Iran. I can not enjoy American music the same way I can feel the musical poetry of Persia enter my being and dance around in my soul. My absolute in a society of subjectivity is my identity as an Iranian woman- it is the root which bestows enchantment, strength, and vigor. It is my past, present, and future- it is my freedom.

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