November 11, 1999
Say something POSITIVE
As an American who has been married to an Iranian for 36 years, and
lived in Iran for years both before and after the revolution, speaks fluent
Farsi and is rarely considered to be a farangi anymore, and raised two
bicultural children, I now feel compelled to write this letter, if only
to get something off of my chest which has been building up for a while,
ever since I read a certain article in The Iranian about a man who
visited Isfahan, ate a lot of chelo-kebab, then complained that the restaurants
weren't five-star quality ["My
Actually, it is something I noticed among Iranians years ago - before
the revolution - and which I see now being repeated on the pages of The
Iranian: a constant, obsessive urge in some Iranians for self-bashing,
negativity and defeatism - and particularly the way they pass this attitude
on to the next generation.
I don't know why some Iranians insist on this destructive self-deprecation
(even when in the pretext of constructive self-examination), this overwhelming
apathy and obsession for conspiracies. I won't even mention the compulsive,
paralyzing nostalgia which has become common-place in the Iranian community
in the U.S. Even worse is the insistence that anyone who has the slightest
positive attitude about Iran is either naive or motivated by personal gain.
It is such a shame, particularly because Iran is a wonderful place and
Iranians are wonderful people. Compared with lots of other countries in
similar circumstances, Iran is quite well off. There is no reason to constantly
compare Iran with the U.S.: the U.S. has its own problems, including corruption
and mismanagement. And what is the point of comparing a nation which has
just emerged from a war and a revolution to a rich superpower other than
to re-enforce the sense of defeatism anyway?
Whatever negative things one may say about Iranian culture or politics,
there is no other country or society in the world which hasn't done worse
at some time or another. Iran is a nation which has gone from being a banana
republic ruled by a typical third-world puppet regime to an independent
country with a genuine internal political debate - even perhaps on the
verge of becoming a genuine democracy - all in the course of just 20 years,
and after a bloody war, totally on its own and in the face of constant
vilification by various U.S. administrations.
I don't know of any other country in the region which has - or can even
hope - to do the same. I don't know of any other society which could have
maintained such genuine warmth and sense of personal connection in the
midst of such incredible turmoil. Iranians should be proud of themselves
and their nation. Other people from other countries are far more proud
of far less.
I understand that there are some Iranian living abroad who have been
traumatized by the revolution & the consequences of displacement, and
who have reached a certain age and are reflecting on their past. Perhaps
this negativity can only be expected from them. Perhaps they forget that
there are also couple of generations of younger Iranians and American-Iranians
who don't suffer from the same malady, who have a positive "can-do"
constructive attitude, who love Iran and the U.S. even if they don't necessarily
agree with the politicians, and see no particular reason to have to choose
between their Iranian or American identities (and don't even pay much attention
to such labels anyway). This generation isn't bound by the same attitudes
and frustrations. They certainly don't sit around re-hashing what "the
British" did 80 years ago, they don't pine for Googoosh ["Gharib-e
aashenaa"], or whine about why the the internet cafe in Tehran
isn't cheap enough ["Chai,
shirini & the Internet"].
I have often wondered what explains this urge by the older generation
of Iranians to constantly bash Iran, emphasize the shortcomings while ignoring
the accomplishments, and impose their hang-ups, frustrations and psychological
baggage on the youth. Perhaps it is a good excuse to do nothing - if everything
about Iran is bad, everyone is corrupt and all the decks are stacked against
you, then there is no point in trying to accomplishing anything, right?
Perhaps it is a way of justifying one's own frustrations. Or perhaps the
answer is simply that "misery loves company."
How about having something POSITIVE to say about Iran and Iranians once
in a while then?