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How shallow have we become? 
Mel Gibson and Sassanian Apocalypto

Mehrdad Khodayari
June 14, 2007

The other night, my wife and I rented the newest Mel Gibson’s movie Apocalypto. The movie was about once great Mayan civilization and I must admit did not know much about Mayans but my wife, who is from Argentina, profoundly occupied and drawn in Fine art briefed Mayan’s ghastly culture to me. 

The movie was about a harmless and lonely tribe who were hunters and family oriented. They seemed to be happy until an aggressive dangerous force in the middle of the night invaded their peaceful life and changed their lives forever. Those who chose to fight were brutally slaughtered and at the end those who survived including women were taken to a death-defying journey to be sacrificed while the children were left behind of their own.

Later that night, I tuned in Dr. Bahram Moshiri’s "Sarzamineh Javid". Mr. Moshiri was talking about the Arab invasion and last of Sassanian. As growing up, Arab invasion had always upset me. This little nuisance often made me wonder how a mighty Persian empire could be so pathetic and puny at the end. Was it an act of God as most Moslem scholars taught us or the empire disintegrate within because of a rotten and corrupted administration which we have witness so many of them through out the history. 

I couldn’t sleep, turning and tossing so much that my wife politely suggested that I might be more comfortable sleeping in guess bedroom. I just closed my eyes and start picturing once great forgotten culture that I knew about it, “The Sassanians and their version of Apocalypto”. Apocalypto is a Latin word and in English it is called Apocalypse. It means “end of something and beginning of something else”.

After the war of Nahavand, for most part Persian frontier was wide open to Arabs. For more than thousand years Persian were forced to accept a new God and it couldn’t come in a worse time. Drained and exhausted nation after surviving 20 years plus non-stop excruciating war in the hand of a Mad-man Khosro Parviz and his archrival Byzantine emperor Heraclius was no match for Arab invaders with shabby clothes, small sword and on foot.

I don’t think spreading the word of Allah was the immense reason for those hideous foot soldiers and their gluttonous Generals. Invading a country sole’s because of his wealth could entice almost every nation (Hey, we are still doing it in Iraq) but why the burning, killing, raping and taking the woman and children and selling them in the slave market. I was most troubled by merciless treatment on this particular invasion toward families and especially children as I saw a glance of it at a totally different world in Mr. Gibson’s movie.

Can anyone imagine a mind of small child who lived on that era, had a life maybe school if he/she was lucky, friends and family then hastily all those glees came to a halt and no one was able to explain to that wondering child what just had happened.  I am fully aware history has witness massive vindictive acts just like this or maybe even worse but you don’t expect to see these malice behaviors while someone is spreading the seeds of God on earth. At least in this movie, the Mayan’s left the children alone and were just trilled by capturing the adults.

This would bring me to another burning question, how can we condemn a nation who fights for his continued existence and how can we criticize a man who fights for his family, home and country? What would happen if all the sudden a new outside force would induce today Iran to accept a new God?  Iran is going to fight. No question about it. What makes the Arab invasion totally acceptable and exceptional?  Ever since I learned to think, this feverish uncertainty of mine that how can we accept this callous conduct with open arms?

The Arabs in sixth century were not asked to come to Persia for a cup of tea nor Changis Khan in the twelfth century. They both forced their way in by butchering, slaughtering and exterminating great vast of the Persian population. Yet Changis Khan is the wicked and Islam Khan is divined. Yazid ibn Mohalb, one of the Omar’s top General decapitated so many of our ancestors that their blood flowed in the water powering a milestone for one full day according to some historian and few years later, under the command of Hassan and Hussein ibn Ali (Our Beloved second and third Shi`a Imam) a large convoy invaded Mazandaran province and after one of the bloodiest war during the incursion our darling Imams had to retrieve due to the geographic stand of the province but not before wasting many of our ancestors who clashed for their rights to live .These are just a few of their divine justice. 

Every nation has individual character or characters that identified them to a noble cause or a poor judgment. For example, Mexican has an individual craven in their young history that they despised him the most. He is called General Santana. He is the one to blame for the lose of Texas. I bet some of us have heard about Benedict Arnold if we have studied American history. Both individuals are often mentioned in their respected country as traitors and coward. The both are unwelcome and least subject to talk about but in our bizarre and twisted post Islamic era the General Rustam Farokhzad whom I believe was a true patriotic often not welcome but yet Slaman Farsi is repeatedly considered a hero. Where did we get off this train? When did we go wrong?  We have no idea who is the hero and who is the renegade in our culture.

The Jews have a compelling code of silence since they left Egypt. They teach their children who were they and never forget where they come from. Our six Century ancestors fought for us but we have betrayed and substitute them. This switch has cost us a vast pain and bewilderment through out the history and maybe that’s why we have this constant struggle for our identity.

We call ourselves Persian and despised everyone who calls us Arabs but we have their religion. We often argue to convince our friends that we are not Arabs, we are Persian, we are Aryans but sadly we shed tears for an Arab man -- Hussein ibn Ali -- annually. This gentleman was not even in the mix of things when the whole ordeal started but strangely enough there is more commotion for his death than the death of his ground father. His ground father never even touched a Persian soul much less to destroy it but he Single Handed butchered many of ancestors.

We “Persians” are very proud of Cyrus the Great and the poet Ferdowsi -- whom we brag about for using only Persian words in his work. But strangely enough we have put our salvation into the hands of someone whom we communicate only through a well.  If this is not a sign of an identity crisis then I don’t know what is.  How shallow have we become? 

We have showed ourselves to the rest of the world like we are more fanatic muslims than all Arabs put together but at the same time we call ourselves Persian. What Arab gave us wasn’t good enough so we ensued and wrote our version of Islam by throwing in twelve complicated individuals at them. We thrown in everything including the kitchen sink just to get our vengeance from the bloody invasion that we were so resentful to begin with.

By the time we were done, we created a mess that has become unstoppable. Heck, we even changed the name of our country but egoistically we blame the neighboring gulf nations for pushing toward their identity by calling Persian Gulf their Gulf. Persia wasn’t good enough for us so we changed it while the entire country stood and said nothing. If we betrayed our ancestors by abolishing the name of the Persia then what we except from our gulf neighbors to think?  They do have a valid point but let’s hope they don’t get their wish. If they do succeed, there goes the last remaining of a great name called “Persia” because by no mean we the descendants are doing anything to retrieve it. 

To conclude, what ever happened in 650 was not an invasion but rather it was extermination and we are proof for that. We have forsaken our ancestor’s suffering since the middle of sixth century. Should it be ok if our descendants forget about our agony like we don’t even exist?  We have families, dreams, homes and people to take care of just like our ancestors over 1300 years ago. To make feel even better, the Arabs then began calling us “Ajam” (mute). The last time I checked, they still do... Comment

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