Color of hate
Communist Red to Islamic Green
By Tala Dowlatshahi
October 16, 2001
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
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!