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Politics

Voting on merit
Where Goli Ameri was born in inconsequential

By Jim S.
June 1, 2004
iranian.com

After reading Mahmoud Ghaffari's "For who she is", I felt like a person who upon hearing an old, but faintly familiar ballad, begins to hum along as the music plays as he thinks to himself, "Yes, yes... I recognize this song, the words are slowly coming back to me... I can hear it in my head. Yes... the words are coming back to me... I remember... "....laa...laa...laa...yaddah....yaddah...yaddah...blah....blah...blah..."

"This is the same song sung by Faye Farhang, not long ago [Rock the vote with Ameri]. It's only been changed a little.  I knew I'd heard it before. Yes, this is the song that Faye sang asking people to support Goli Ameri's congressional campaign because she was born in Iran and being a real Persian at heart.  Now the new singer, Mahmoud Ghaffari, has added a new verse "she has good genes."

Well, I don't know about you, but  Farhang and Ghaffari have convinced me... NOT! It blows my mind that they consider the two factors of birth and blood, (three, if you want to throw in the Persian heart) to be the most important factors voters should consider in deciding who to send to Congress. According to this criteria, the big Kahunna himself, Ali Khameini would be a suitable Congressional candidate.  Moreover, since there are about seventy million people alive today who were both born in Iran and have Iranian blood, the voters of Oregon's First Congressional District ought to have a lot of very qualified potential candidates to choose from if Ameri decides to abandon her campaign.

As I tried to point out in, "Inescapable truth", Ameri's aspirations to be a member of the United States Congress will not rise or fall on whether Iranian-Americans living throughout the United States embrace her, but rather whether voters from every walk of life and of every color, creed, ethnicity, and religion living in Oregon's First Congressional District vote for her.  Any voter, ethnically Iranian or not, who does not live in Oregon's First Congressional District cannot vote in that political contest, p-e-r-i-o-d! Consequently, it is utterly irrelevant what anyone outside that district thinks about Ameri or her candidacy.

Unlike elections such as those recently conducted in the Islamic Republic of Iran, which were rigged and manipulated openly for the world to witness, elections in Oregon will not allow the warm wishes of Goli supporters living outside the First District districts to be stuffed into the ballot boxes on Election Day. Thus, Ameri must convince the voters of her district that she is the best candidate to represent them in Congress.

I won't bore you with anymore demographic statistics about the people who live in Ameri's district since Farhang got a bit annoyed with me for supplying such numbers in Inescapable truth. Suffice it to say, that more than 98% of the voters in that district are not of Iranian ancestry. I think it would be safe to assume, that since the overwhelming majority of the people, who have the power to send  Ameri to Congress, aren't Iranian-Americans, they won't care one-wit that she's ethnicity Iranian.

They will want to know how  Ameri can make life better for them. They will want to know what her vision is for Oregon and for America. They will want to know that she loves America and its people with the same intensity that she loves Iran, and its people. They will want to know that she holds dear those fundamental traditional values that other Americans, white, black, brown, red and yellow, hold dear, such as love of family, love of country, dedication to duty, honoring commitments, accepting responsibility, fulfilling promises and valuing loyalty and honesty in oneself and in others.

One thing that I am completely convinced of is that Ameri has made the very personal transition from having an "expatriate's mentality" to that of having a "citizen's mentality". This is a very important step for any immigrant because it means that one has made an emotional investment in the new land and its society. When one is emotionally committed to a country they care what happens to it. They want the best for it and its people.

Clearly,  Ameri views herself as being an American. She embraces our country, its people, its values and its multi-ethnic, multiracial and multicultural society. Does this mean that she no longer cares about Iran? Of course not!  It does mean, however, that as a representative of the people from her district that she places their needs and aspirations first in intra-national affairs and she places the needs and aspirations of the American people first in international affairs.

One cannot serve two masters at the same time. Those who want Ameri to succeed in her effort to become a member of Congress only so that she can promote "Iranian" issues, simply do not understand, as Ameri does, that the glue which binds Americans together as one people is our ability to rise above ethnocentrism.

Unlike those who pander to the dangerous human emotion of ethnicity, Ameri quite clearly has embraced this country and all its people, not just the one's from her country of birth. Unlike some, she doesn't distinguish native born Americans from naturalized Americans.  It is clear that she relishes the gifts of freedom and opportunity that America extends to all its people and does not wish to limit these cherished treasures to only those Americans who are of Iranian ancestry.

If Ameri is anything, she is a "giver". She wants to give something back to the country and people who welcomed her and gave her an opportunity to succeed and achieve in this Land of Opportunity. Those who urge others to vote for her simply because she is from Iran are "takers". They are people who have never made an emotional commitment to America. All that American citizenship means to them is an opportunity to get as much as they can, without giving anything back.

They want Ameri to succeed in her quest for a Congressional seat so that they can continue to vicariously "take" through her.  I am sure that such people will be sorely disappointed if and when she gets to Washington. I am sure.   Ameri is an intelligent and capable individual who would not be so easily manipulated by those who want a member of Congress for "Iranians", "Iranian-Americans", or Iran". Her commitment is to her people and her country; namely the United States of America and the American people...including of course, Iranian-Americans.

Since her candidacy is one which is based on principles of inclusion rather than exclusion, thus I have no doubt that she would reject the kind of ethnic dogma which has been propagated by those who champion her cause on the basis of ethnicity. Much to her credit,  Ameri has not based her campaign on this divisive notion.  It is others who have sounded the cry "Iran, Oh Iran".

While she may be flattered by those who wish to accentuate her Iranian origins, she knows that appealing for votes based upon her ethnicity will not propel her campaign forward in light of the demographic realities of her district. Less than 2% of that district's voters share her ethnic background. There simply are not enough voters of Iranian ancestry to base her entire candidacy on an ethnic platform. Her candidacy by necessity must be built upon the much more solid foundation of a multi-ethnic and multiracial platform.

Given the demographics she faces,  Ameri must make a strong case to the the other 98% of the voters in her district as to why they should vote for her. How successful do you imagine she would be in November's contest if she were to campaign on the following platform: "I'm Iranian....I have good genes....I am a real Persian at heart....and I will be the Congresswoman for Iranians, Iranian-Americans, and Iran..."

If this were her platform, I feel confident in predicting that she would garner all 2% of the votes cast by Iranian-Americans in the district and none of the votes cast by the 98% non-Iranian Americans.  It makes much more sense for people like Farhang and Ghaffari to use their writing talents to help Ameri spread a multi-ethnic, multiracial and multicultural message of hope, prosperity and unity that all Americans regardless of color, creed, religion, national origin, or even sexual preference could grasp onto and unite behind.

Why aren't they directing their writings toward convincing the non-Iranian 98% of the voters to cast their ballots for her. It is this group of voters that hold the key to Ameri's future career endeavors. If Ameri is ever to be Congresswoman Ameri she will need tens of thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands, of votes to be cast for her from people who have never met an Iranian and would place the country on a world map somewhere in Eastern Europe, right between Cuba and Cambodia. If there is anything that we, native born Americans are well versed in, it is geography. We know what lies where beyond America's borders. We're just are a bit fuzzy on where exactly!

I truly found it regrettable that  Ghaffari regarded, Inescapable truth as being against Ameri's candidacy. He was mistaken. All I tried to say in that piece was that to vote for any candidate based simply on ethnicity did not make sense. Those who rail on about ethnic unity fail to understand that it is only when ethnic communities find the strength to transcend and rise above the limitations of ethnocentrism that they will truly enjoy and value their American citizenship.

There are untold numbers of individuals in America from many different ethnic groups who seem only concerned about their group. Such people prefer to go through life as a hyphenated-American. The vast majority of America's citizens do not wish to be hyphenated and, frankly speaking, view their hyphenated neighbors with suspicion. This is because the hyphenless wonder to whom or what the hyphenated-Americans are ultimately loyal and emotionally invested. It is certainly the right of every American to call himself whatever he chooses, but at the end of the day, why call oneself American at all if one has no emotional commitment to this country. I believe that Ameri doesn't use a hyphen, and doesn't refer to herself as an Iranian-American, because she doesn't need that crutch anymore. She sees herself and her countrymen of every shade and hue to be simply, Americans.

Undoubtedly,  Farhang and Ghaffari are fine people with the best of intentions in trying to generate support for Ameri's campaign. Unfortunately, and, perhaps, unwittingly they do more harm than good by promoting ethnocentrism. In a multi-ethnic environment like America, it is simply insane to elevate birth and blood over hard over hard work and achievement.

What is even more unfortunate is that they simply don't need to resort to the lowest common denominator of "ethnic pride" in promoting Ameri to Iranian-Americans. It is insulting to Ameri's many substantial hard won successes and achievements in this country for them to promote her as the best candidate because "she is one of us...not one of them."   Ameri's record stands quite well on its own.

I for one refuse to accept a political ideology or a plea for political support which panders to ethnocentric emotions. None, who are fortunate to call themselves Americans, either by birth or naturalization, can afford to indulge in this insidious scourge. The coin of ethnic pride has another side called racism. These two concepts differ only in one respect, which is the individual perception of a person in any given situation. One's man's ethnic pride is all to often perceived by another man as racism and bigotry. One only needs to think of Kosovo and Rwanda to understand my point completely.

What would people think if I were to urge voters to only vote for white, conservative, native born Americans? What if I further by telling voters that the factors of birth and blood were the most important factors to consider on election day because we had to prevent "those" Iranian-Americans taking over?"  "We have to vote for 'people like us' so we have a 'real' American in Congress to voice 'our real American concerns'.

I bet the vast majority of iranian.com readers would find such statements absolutely racist, bigoted and un-American; and rightly so.  Such sentiments are NOT what we should aspire to as Americans. We must all reject such bare, naked, ugly and divisive ethnocentric garbage no matter from what quarter it comes!

When those in the Iranian-American community who put out the call to vote for Ameri because "she is from Iran", "she is one of us", "she will be a Congresswoman for Iranians and Iran", they consider it to be an acceptable display of "ethnic pride".

The same people would consider me to be a racist, a bigot and un-American for pointing out to them that they are doing in the name of ethnic pride what would get me branded and condemned as a racist, a bigot and un-American if I were to do it.

These people cannot have their cake and eat it, too. Either they want to be part of an America where skin color, religious beliefs, country of birth and gender preference are not important in evaluating the quality of an individual's character to be a public servant, or they want something else. Perhaps, something closer to what can be found in Iran today, where those who fail or refuse to conform to the standards set by those in power are persecuted, humiliated, ignored, denigrated, or just killed.

This is the danger that ethnic dogma poses to a multi-ethnic, multiracial and multicultural society, like ours. It divides us, as a people, and prevents those who who hide behind its walls from ever transcending it to find unity and strength of purpose with others who may look very different on the outside, but have similar values and principles on the inside.

America is a complex multicultural patchwork of colors, languages, and ideas. It is also a land where we all must rise above our own ethnic and racial prejudices and see all our fellow men and women as equals. There are those in the Iranian-American community who have voluntarily imprisoned themselves for the past quarter-of-a-century. For them American citizenship has meant nothing more than acquiring a little blue book which says "United States of America" on its cover.  Such people view their experience in America as being an opportunity to take as much as they can get, without giving anything back.

These little blue books holders do not wish to "give" anything of themselves or their hearts to America because they are unable to transcend and rise above the wall of ethnocentrism which they think protects them from all of us who are different. In actuality, however, they are harming themselves and the rest of us.   By refusing to explore the many benefits that the wider culture, beyond the walls of ethnocentrism, can offer them and simultaneously denying the wider culture the benefits of what they can offer it no one comes out a winner. Such people simply don't understand that our differences make us strong and unique as a people, not weak and inferior.

This self-imposed isolation has resulted in many who have a very negative and distorted view of America and its culture. This is unfortunate because those in the Iranian-American community, like Ameri,  who have taken the time and made the effort to embrace their new home, its culture, its unlimited opportunities and possibilities for prosperity have found that the rest of us welcome them, celebrate their successes and most importantly see them as countrymen.

How could we as a nation do any of these things if we were shackled by the racsist chains of ethnocentrism? We could not. On a more personal level, how could an Iranian woman be the mother of my two children, if I were shackled by the chains ethnocentrism?  She could not. I, like most other readers of iranian.com, reject the kind of ethnocentric dogma that is propogated by some of Ameri's supporters. Ethnocentrism can never serve the interests of our country, it can, however, if left unchecked, destroy it.

By pandering to ethnic identity, Farhang and Ghaffari, either knowingly or unwittingly, reinforce those deeply ingrained feelings of some in the Iranian-American community that they are somehow unconnected with, different from and more special than other Americans.

Americans, who are not of Iranian descent, see it much differently, however.  They often perceive, either rightly or wrongly, an Iranian-American community that is aloof, arrogant and condescending toward all who are not its members.

While it is commendable to be very proud of one's Iranian origin, language, literature, music, food and the like,  it is hurtful to the larger American community when a minority wishes to elevate the importance of what comes before the hyphen over that which comes after it, i.e. Iranian-American.  There is nothing wrong with being proud of and celebrating the many wonderful and outstanding accomplishments that untold numbers of individual Iranians have found in America. These rags-to-riches stories by Iranian immigrants turned hope-filled Americans are not a new story to The Land of Opportunity. They are merely the contents of a new and exciting chapter of the very thick book of Hope, Freedom and Prosperity that has many such inspiring and enduring pages.

All immigrant communities to this great land; whether Irish-Americans, German-Americans, Chinese-Americans, Vietnamese-Americans, Cuban-Americans, Arab-Americans, and yes, Iranian-Americans have faced hardship, discrimination and all manner of adversity on the road to economic success and social acceptance. Each community, however, has survived, thrived and given new meaning to the sometimes imperfect, but eternal promise of hope and possibility that America holds out to all her children.

Farhang in, Foot in the door stated that Iranians have toiled and labored in America for twenty-five years "in the name of Iran". I didn't have any clue as to what she was talking about then, nor do I now. All people in this country, including Iranian-Americans work hard and persevere in life because they want to have a good and decent standard of living and they want to give their children every opportunity to go as far as they can academically, socially and economically.

I have not worked a single day of my 43 years "in the name of America", except, perhaps, during my enlistment as a soldier, years ago. My Iranian born wife has not worked a single day of her life "in the name of Iran", at least not since we got married in 1980. We have both worked hard throughout the years to acquire material possessions, to find personal satisfaction, to give our children every opportunity to succeed in life, and to leave them a financial inheritance  when the two of us depart this world. Neither of us has worked "in the name of Iran" or "in the name of America" and I feel safe saying that we never will.

Farhang was attempting to use an ethnocentric idea to impart to the readers that somehow there was some special, almost mystical quality to the Iranian experience in America. The Iranian experience in America is the immigrant experience in America, except for the fact that many in your community have had opportunities for higher education and subsequent professional lives that are usually closed to ethnic minorities for two or three generations. If anything, America has been generous with the opportunities that it has made available Iranians as an ethnic minority. Opportunities are all America gives, however.

Success is another matter entirely. America doesn't give it to anyone. It is earned through hard-work and sweat. Those in the Iranian-American community, like Ameri, who have achieved great things, have done so on their own and in a larger community that doesn't care where they were born.

All Americans accept the immigrants from Iran as countrymen.  All Americans respect the many achievements in science, medicine, business, technology and art that Iranians have given our country. While Iranian-Americans have earned our respect, they are no better or worse than any of the rest of us.  We acknowledge and celebrate the fact that in a relatively short period of time and despite many challenges and hardships Iranian-Americans have achieved remarkable successes and, quite often, personal prosperity in America's melting pot.  But, alas that is what we are...a melting pot where all people and ethnicities are valued as equals, none more special or less special than any other.

As one comtemplates the beliefs of people like Farhang and Ghaffari, one must decide for oneself whether one wishes to be an Iranian with a "little blue book" or an American of Iranian descent. This is a very personal decision, but a very meaningful one because those who have the "little blue book" mentality will always hide behind walls of ethnocentrism. People, like Ameri, who are unafraid and unashamed to proudly proclaim that they are Americans of Iranian descent will never think to cast their vote for something as inconsequential as where a candidate was born or to what ethnic group they were born.

Americans, of all colors and creeds, have no trouble and are not afraid to vote for someone who looks a little different, speaks with an accent, or has an unusual way of looking at things. When members of the Iranian-American community can do this, then they can truely say, as Faye Farhang's pointed out, "we belong."

If I were living in Oregon's 1st Congressional District I would vote for Ameri. I would not vote for her, however, because she is from Iran. That fact is absolutely meaningless to me, just as her shoe size or pizza preference is. I would vote for her because of her conservative values and the many business successes that she has achieved through hard work during the more than thirty years of living in this country. She has demonstrated that she possesses a love for America and its people that is, at least, equal to that of one who is born here. She has done this while maintaining personal pride in the land and people from which she came.

While I usually don't have a favorable impression of politicians, I have every reason to believe that  Ameri has the best interests of the people in her district at heart in seeking such high office. Ameri is an excellent example of what it means to be American. The very fact that she is a candidate for Congress speaks volumes about the health and vitality of the American Dream. Anyone who thinks that the dream is dead, needs only to look at Goli Ameri to know that it is alive and well.

Perhaps, Ghaffari and  Farhang would refuse to accept that  Ameri should be elected to the United States Congress on the strength of her strong commitment to American values. They seem to be most concerned with where she was born.  I hope that Oregon's First District voter's will be more concerned about where  Ameri can take them in the future than where she began her life's journey. If they keep their minds focused on the future and not worry about the past,  Ameri might just win her race.  Just think, come November we may be calling her Congresswoman Ameri.  It has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? 

Where else in the world could a little girl born in Iran grow up to be a shining example of  just how special it is to be able to say, "I'm an American and I'm proud of it.".

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