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Color of hate
Communist Red to Islamic Green

By Tala Dowlatshahi
October 16, 2001
The Iranian

I am an Iranian who grew up just north of San Francisco. From a very early age, I was encouraged by my family to identify myself as Persian. You see, Persian sounded more appealing to the American ear as images of royal families, fruit, cats and carpets came to mind. In those days, post 1979, admitting one was from Iran or displaying any form of nationalism was swiftly associated with terrorism. A mere child of seven, Americans quickly taught me of my difference: cultural, religious, physical (this was the most grueling), and social. My fellow classmates were quite pro-active in humiliating me for having dark features, a big nose, and fur on my arms. They thought it odd that my parents would prefer to dine on the floor -- on a sofreh -- rather than a table.

During the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, the taking of American hostages, and the closure of the United States Embassy in Iran, my life in America changed dramatically. Born in Tehran, my family emigrated to the U.S. when I was four-years old. My father, a psychologist, my mother a nurse, worked hard to ensure their children had a middle-class upbringing with high standards of classroom education in a safe suburban environment.

Three years later, my friends, their parents, teachers and neighbors passed watchful and suspicious glances at my family. While once I was referred to as a tan American, my friends were now wearing yellow-colored ribbons in recognition of their support for the release of the hostages and the prosecution of the so-called Iranian terrorists. One can imagine what a child of seven would feel like if they were left out of this ribbon-wearing fraternity. It was at this stage in my life that I was prompted towards political dialogue.

Although America has many advantages, there is a pugnacious drive for those not American to rapidly assimilate. This does not consist of simply eating a McDonald's hamburger or grandma's apple pie. American culture was so important for those of us who emigrated and became hyphenated-Americans (in my case, Iranian-American, Persian-American, American-from Iran, Iranian-living-in-America, Iranian-born-in Iran-but-raised in...), that my family worked very hard in hopes of getting a small piece of the American pie.

Yet, regardless of appeasing to the American work ethic and Americanism, once the political circumstances devastated relationships between America and Iran, Americans turned their back on us. Where once our leaders were welcomed by glamorous red-rolling carpets, Iran was no longer seen as a poetic, mystical and ancient land. In the eyes of Americans, Iran consisted of brewing Ayatollahs, women in black clad chadors, and a country deemed hateful and hostile to all that was American. Strange juxtaposition considering the circumstances of today.

Once again humanity is faced with the burning of bridges (in this case toppling towers). As a resident of New York for over four years, I think it is a sheer pity that New York was targeted. New York -- it is the one place in which ALL walks of life can feel right at home. And now, Americans are back to displaying their Stars and Stripes to demonstrate their unity. And in their demonstration, a 75-year-old grandfather opted to drive his car straight into a Muslim women in a shopping mall parking lot. Narrowly missing her, grandfather followed her into a department store and demanded she leave his country. I wonder if in his deranged state, grandfather could fathom how many of his people were in her country-ruling its economy, depleting its resources, and devaluing its currency.

Now living in London and working as a journalist, fellow Londoners frequently ask me how I feel about Afghans and the situation in Afghanistan. I say we all need to turn to George Orwell's Animal Farm and re-familiarize ourselves with its characters. Napoleon and Squealer, the ruling pigs. Boxer, the hardworking, oblivious and reliable horse. Snowball, the pig considered a trader and hypocrite and to have defamed the mission of Animal Farm, and Mr. Jones, the farmer who was ruthlessly kicked out from his farm. Of course Orwell was really mocking Stalin and the Soviet Union, the constructs of Communism. During the Cold War, America and the West waved their Stars and Stripes against the Red enemy. Today, the "enemy" wears Green -- the symbol of Islam.

So I ask my fellow English colleagues and my American friends: Are we now not the pigs in Animal Farm chanting "Four legs good, two legs bad?" Even the Boxers of America have dusted off their Confederate flags, attacking Muslims (even turbaned Sikhs) and looting mosques, all for the benefit and salvation of America -- their own private Animal Farm. Have Americans not snowballed into true hypocrites when they once conspired to eliminate the Reds in Afghanistan by helping the Greens? The new Mr. Jones is obvious -- the millions of Afghans cramming along Pakistan and Iran's borders seeking refuge. Prisoners caught between a cliched rock and a hard place.

I reflect back to those moments of my childhood -- a seven-year-old girl in a classroom filled with hate, ribbons, Stars and Stripes and chants of "I-run, you-run, go back to I-ran" -- and ponder what will be next season's fashionable color of hate: Blue? Purple? Pink!

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