free or flee
That's our Iranian slogan
By M. Shahbodaghi
February 5, 2004
Ms. Azizi [See All
Bamed out!], who left Iran 26
years ago, has gone back there to discover America is a better
to live than
Iran. That's not really surprising. It's not news
either. In fact, the sentiment is exactly 121 years old. That's
when Nasereddin Shah returned from his frist trip to Farang.
(Ahmad Shah, when he abdicated the throne and moved to the French
Riviera, is rumored to have said that he would trade the whole
country of Iran for one of the tree-lined, gaslamp lit boulevards
of France.) The big deal is in why she'd leave here to
go there searching for answers? What was she longing for that
she didn't have here? Answer me that, and you know the
root of our relationship with Iran.
Then there is the majority of readers who agreed
with her in the opinion
poll following her article. They say we
should all "imitate
the West". That's ironic too. If this majority has
no use for Iranian culture, why are they reading iranian.com?
There are many ironies in our times, and many more
things we don't understand. For example, those New Hampshire license
say "Live Free or Die"? They're made by prisoners.
Did she know that when she got sentimental about them? Can you
imagine sitting around in a prison hacking the words "Live
Free or Die" all day long? Ouch! It's ironic, but at
least we know what the slogan means. It's the slogan of the
Americans who envisioned & built this great country. Some of
them actually did die before this country found freedom.
that the slogan does not say, "Live Free or Flee".
That's our Iranian slogan. The cream of Iranian society has
been leaving Iran now for a century or so- I guess we are too good
to live in that misery. It's a wonder there is a society
left at all. Iran is in a brain-drain death spiral whereby she
raises stars and watches them leave. Then she produces the next
brilliant batch, and they leave too- and so on.
To add insult to
injury, some go back every once in a while to, indignantly, declare
the place beyond hope. Did she really expect the society to improve
after she and other capable people like her left? How? It's
like molla Nasreddin who said, "I've trimmed my beard
three times now, but it's still too short!" Where's
the logic in her disappointment? It's like saying, "You
all grow the wheat, and bake the bread, and I'll be back
to eat it"! That takes a special kind of gall. It's
like leaving your family for better pastures, then going back after
decades to declare them too maladjusted to put up with.
We all need to make a confession: we still love
Iran even though we don't know how to make it better. We are angry
we can't live with her, and we can't live without her.
It's like we know there is a treasure in that box, but we
can't crack it open. It's frustrating but we can't
walk away, or throw away the box. Once we admit to our love-hate
relationship, then I suggest we observe some rules:
1- Let's not attack each other, specially the ones
who are trying to make things better. Can you think of one true
patriot, visionary, "jaan-nesaar" who saw a happy ending
in the past tumultuous century? Do we have anybody who stood up
to help and was appreciated? Is there anybody today's young
people can look up to and say "I wanna be like him"?
Let's look at the top of the list: Amir Kabir: slit throat,
Mirza Koochak Khan Jangali: firing squad, Mirzadeh Eshghi: shot
outside his home, Ahmad Kasravi: shot in a court of law, Reza Shah:
in exile, Mossadegh: died under house arrest, Dr. Fatemi: hung,
and the list goes on.
Oddly enough, unlike other societies in progress,
we attack each other from below. The least accomplished, least
helpful citizens are always attacking the ones who do the most,
as if wanting to drag them back down to their own level. Who led
the masses to overthrow Mosaddegh? A thug who went by the illustrious
name of Shaban Bee-Mokh (Shaban "The Brainless").
whom does Ms. Azizi save her most venomous attacks? For Shirin
Ebadi, of course, the most accomplished Iranian fighting for justice,
and, arguably, the best human being on earth last year. (And notice
how I, to my shame, am criticizing Ms. Azizi now, who I'm
sure has done more than me). Leaders don't have to be everything
to everybody. As long as they are something to somebody, that's
a start. The average citizen MUST honor & protect them.
Let's not throw anything away. I get nervous when somebody talks
about aspects of culture that they personally deem counter-productive.
Ms. Azizi says our literature is to blame for our backwardness.
ABSOLUTELY NOT! That's an enormous over-simplification, and
borders on abject JAHL, I'm sorry to say.
During Reza Shah's reign, we threw out our traditional
clothing and our
military music and traditions because we believed they were holding
us back from modernization. That didn't make us modern, and
it didn't make our military stronger either.
Let's not throw anything of this great civilization
out, lest we come to regret it very soon. I say there is nothing
excellent, as refined, or as beautiful in human history as Persian
literature. Period. In our troubled times, it is us who are not
worthy of it- not the other way around.
3- Let's not shed crocodile
tears for Iran, or look down at Iranians who stayed behind. We
know we left Iran for selfish
reasons. We turned our backs on our people, right after we
climbed up on their backs. It's not a personal issue, it's
a social problem. The society's psyche is such that they
would've left us if they had beaten us to it.
be personally mad at anybody else. If we care about Iran,
let's roll up our sleeves and help. If we don't, let's forget
her and live happily here. Let's stop the pretenses. Let's
be humble. Let's be honest. Maybe then we can start taking
baby steps and making small contributions.
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