|You know it will get worse
Who could believe a person's life can change so much in so little time?
By Amir Marvasti
September 6, 2002
This was emailed to iranian.com on September 18, 2001.
It's just another morning. You drag yourself out of bed, put on the almost
clean dress shirt and walk out the door with the indifference and anonymity that
you have used to make your hybrid existence easier. It helps you blend in, you think.
You are an Iranian exile desperately trying to pass as just another nine-to-five
Your neighbor, whom has never taken an interest in you before, frantically informs
"Can you believe they bombed the towers?" You wonder if he had too much
to drink the night before. You amuse him with: "Which towers?" "The
ones in New York!" he yells. Reluctantly, you follow with "Wow, that's
terrible," having no idea how terrible.
Listening to the radio on the way to work, the disaster begins to sink in. Your first
reaction is to pray, not for the victims, no, for yourself. The foul memories of
past accusations have made you very selfish. You begin a dialog with a god you had
abandoned for months, "Please let it be a homegrown nut."
When people at work ask if you had heard about the bombing, you are still in denial.
Still holding your chin up and showing no guilt, you announce, "These militia
groups have to be stopped. They are going to destroy this country."
But you can't stop the deluge of news reports. They point to the part of the world
that continues to embrace you, even though you have been trying to be rid of it for
years. In some strange way, it has embedded itself in you skin, your walk, your unabashedly
large nose, and most importantly, your eyes.
Later that night you watch the horrifying images of the towers collapsing and you
see your dreams plummeting to the ground with them. Tears well up in your eyes, as
much for the victims as for yourself. Who could believe a person's life can change
so much in so little time? You know it will only get worse from here.
"What if one of the hijackers has the same first name as me?" you ask yourself
and are comforted with the thought that the famous boxer Mike Tyson named his son
Amir, and that you know Israelis named Amir. The name thing you can survive, but
what about the way you look?
The news reports are flashing images of the suspected terrorists on the screen. Damn!
They look Middle Eastern, not very different from yourself. Shamefully, the pain
of the victims and their families still has not dominated your thoughts.
Then they show this video of people jumping out of the burning towers to save their
lives. How hopeless and tragic. What a horrible way to die. And at least for few
moments you and your situation seem trivial compared to their suffering. These tears
rolling down your cheeks are for them, and only them.
The next day comes the business of living through this. Your small act of courage
for the day was walking your dog under the hateful gaze of the neighbors. To ease
the situation, you address your dog in the thickest American accent you can muster,
but it doesn't help that even your dog has an Iranian name. Realizing this, you quickly
shift to simply referring to the poor animal as "good dog."
The toughest business of day was calling your daughter. She had to be reminded that
at least for now her dad is not Iranian, and the Farsi words she so enthusiastically
memorized are not to be spoken in public, no matter how impressed her friends might
be. You consider yourself fortunate for having a daughter who can pass for a number
of other ethnicities besides Middle Eastern. "Everybody at school thinks she's
Mexican," her mother consoles you.
You have known the bigotry. You have seen them do it to blacks for years, but you
never thought you would be a full-fledged target. Ironically, you relied on the sensibility
of the racists to hold you in higher regard. You always pictured a scenario where
you would indignantly remind them that you are a Persian and not a common African-American.
But this hatred, you never imagined, and you cannot escape. Perhaps you will follow
your Black students' advice and dye your hair and eyebrows blond and try to pass
for a mulatto.