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Common values
Claiming a piece of "Old Glory"

By Hamid Karimi
October 17, 2001
The Iranian

There is an elaborate, sanctimonious game that we "Iranians" are playing in America. It is a game of denial -- the denial of our American identity against the pride of our ethnic heritage. Even in our expression of sympathy, pain and horror of recent terrors, we hide behind an invisible fence of defensive posturing. We preface our courtesy with terms that clearly play in the hands of political right by placing Americans as "them" and Iranians as "us."

Without falling victim to the illusion of homogeneity of our population as a whole, we need to face up to the reality that perhaps there are more present bonds interconnecting us with the rest of America than our native country. Many of us learn that first hand when our nostalgic return to Iran after years of painful separation is faced with a rude awakening.

We realize that our beloved Iranians, even our own families view us differently, communicate with us at a different level compared to native residents, and above all, convey a sense of disconnection that is very subtle in nature. We may be treated as celebrities and enjoy our short visit there, but we no longer belong. This realization is painful at one level and relieving at another. It can be painful and difficult to build an open, hybrid national identity with dimensions somewhat diametrically opposed to the original perception.

On the other hand, we ought to be relieved to unapologetically seek equitable participation in the American society. To cloak our new identity, however, is naïve at best and deceitful at worst. The antidote to incurable nostalgia for our native land is to put an end to our self-induced denial. It is time for our community to stake a claim in our new land and own a piece of "Old Glory" to bridge the chasm between our Iran and our America, between our past and our present.

We have made it clear to Americans that we do not stand for any type of atrocity -- especially the most dangerous kind that stems from ideological perversion. That gives us pseudo legitimacy as world citizens, but not necessarily as American citizens. If we are to stand against terror and for liberty, then the partial framework of a fundamental system of values must be laid. This framework is the catalyst for assimilation in the American society. Without recognizing this fact, Iranians not only will be unable to influence the course of development of American culture and history, but also incapable of directing its politics that matter most to our present and future.

Despite our numeric superiority as a minority, we have become invisible in terms having an impact on policy decisions and creating awareness among American masses that have little understanding of our rich native heritage. This has given extreme right-wing ideologues free roam to openly advocate the use of weapons of mass destruction including nuclear weapons against Iran. (Read Leonard Peikoff)

Unlike what most people think, the American flag is not a sign of national unity; it is a sign of national identity. Let us not confuse the euphemism for empathy as a sign of purging dissent. We should maintain our individual identity and defend it vigorously, passionately. Even many Americans find this to be a cacophonous statement in the midst of recent rash of popular blind patriotism.

For us, adopting the American flag does not equate betraying our native Iran. On the contrary, it enables us to respond to threats of genocide and unabashed violence by exercising our rights as permanent members of this community through education and timely activism. We should not become mere conformists by the use of common symbolism, rather the ones who will give the flag a whole new dimension -- one that represents America as a culturally diverse and ethnically heterogeneous society built upon a common set of values that we all cherish and understand. That will be good for America, good for Iran and good for the world.

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