April 15, 1998
Dear C. Mohammadi,
I don't know who you are or where you live but what a letter ["Overly friendly, backstabbing "]! While I don't share your sentiments exactly, I understand where you are coming from.
My first personal experience with an Iranian left a bitter taste in my mouth because of the betrayal of friendship I experienced. It wasn't until a few months later that I discovered how much lying, manipulating, exploiting, and deception had also occurred. Having a background in counseling/psychology I concluded that this person must have some psychological problems as a result of some trauma in childhood.
Then I started getting to know other Iranians. When I saw the same kind (but to a lesser degree) of behavior in many them, I realized that what I thought was idiosyncratic turned out to be more of what one friend termed socially-sanctioned behavior. Knowing that made me feel even worse. I had been reading much about Iranian history and culture, "the best of the best" was the message that kept coming through, and yet what I was experiencing was far from it.
Since then I've been doing my own research into the matter. I correspond with people who are knowledgeable about the Iranian-American culture, openly talk with Iranians about these issues, and continue my readings. On the recommendatins of a friend. I am reading the book "Irangeles" edited by Kelley, Friedlander, and Colby which addresses some of these topics. I'll be able to say more when I'm finished.
I don't know if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area but if you do, I'd like to meet and talk with you sometime. I'd like to compare notes, share "war" stories, and see if I can understand better where some of this behavior is coming from. I don't like being in a place where now when I encounter an Iranian I have to question how real and truthful this person is, or guess what the person's goal might be and how I might fit into it. But I've come across too many Iranians in the last 10 months who have a tendency to "hide" themselve in various ways and move on when they've gotten what they need, when they realize you don't serve their needs/interest anymore, or when you've started to catch on to their game.
Where I grew up the kind of uncivil behavior you described of Iranians in your letter is what we would see among people we called "low-lifes". Because of the way they looked though, you usually knew who to stay clear of. But when you see it among people who are educated and professional looking it's tougher because you don't expect it. And what makes it worse is because, as you mentioned, the behavior is shrouded in friendliness, sincerity, and innocence.
So you see, I can relate to where you are coming from. And like you, I still want to be with these people, for in Iranians, because of all that they have experienced, I see a race of people caught between extremes: the best of the best is there as well as the best of the worst. But because you don't hear much of the latter, when you experience it, it comes as quite a shock.
Anyways, take care and I hope to hear from you.