Voting on merit
Where Goli Ameri was born in inconsequential
By Jim S.
June 1, 2004
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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.
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,
By pandering to ethnic identity, Farhang and Ghaffari, either
knowingly or unwittingly, reinforce those deeply ingrained feelings
in the Iranian-American community that they are somehow unconnected
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
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
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
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
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
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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