I watched the videos of the demonstrations hoping to finally see some anger towards this blatant abuse of power. I was disappointed.
November 20, 2006
This Monday morning I went to check iranian.com like I do whenever I get a chance. Living in France I am blissfully free of the kind of CNNized news bombardment that one gets in the U.S. The first thing I saw, of course, was the articles, letters, and video of the ‘Tasing’ of an Iranian-American student (it turns my stomach right now to use the hyphenated form of my identity). For the life of me I did not know what the term meant I thought maybe it was a fraternity ritual gone wrong. Like Hazing. Perhaps the culture that hazes also Tases.
I found out the meaning of Tasing as I read on and finally got my Windows Media Player working to see the video. I cannot say what I felt more: anger or sorrow or shock. I have lived most of my adult life in the U.S. and consider myself to a large degree American. I am not unfamiliar with the kind of blatant racism or abuse of power that one sees every where really. What made this video viewing so incredibly difficult to stomach were two things: one that the guy was Iranian like me, two that it took place in the computer lab of a big University in L.A.
Los Angeles where Iranians feel more at home than in Islamic Tehran. Or used to anyway. Los Angeles where so many successful Iranians pay taxes. UCLA where so many fellow compatriots have studied and taught since at least fifty years ago is the last place you would expect something like this. If this took place in Texas maybe, or Alabama, but in UCLA? For heaven’s sake where are we safe any more? Who the hell authorizes the use of Taser guns (does the name come from the manufacturer?) on students who have no IDs? I remember always losing or forgetting mine when I was a student at Boston University and no one even bothered to question me. What kind of a police state has this land of liberty, where we all came to live free of theocrats, autocrats and dictators, become? And what do we do about it?
What bothered me even more when I re-watched the video is the fact that this happened in front of a whole bunch of other students! My God even the kids at Tehran University who have much more to lose for getting involved would have shown more solidarity towards a fellow student so unjustly punished. What has happened to American youth? Are they so worried about jobs and money that they have lost their very youth? Where is their sense of identity, their sense of solidarity, their sense of justice? If the young people are so docile then who is going to stop this trend? All I heard on the video clip was some guy asking over and over for the University cops badge number, for god sake that is something my mom would do not a passionate well built student of a big university.
I watched the local news clip of the incident. How I hate that accent-that fake news castereeze- how happy I am that I don’t have to listen to it any more. How can the voice of a global super power sound so incredibly provincial? I love the English language and consider it my home but fake sounding American-English turns my stomach more so now than ever. What was shocking about the news cast was that it was so matter-of-fact and bland. As if someone had gotten busted streaking at a football game!
I watched the videos of the demonstrations hoping to finally see some anger towards this blatant abuse of power, some vindication of the rights of the incredibly brave, Mostafa Tabatabai-Nejad. That disappointed me even more. This was the diet coke of demonstrations. I remember the first lecture by Howard Zinn that I attended at Boston University more than twenty years ago. How proud we were of the fact that during the Vietnam War our administrative buildings had been taken over by students for many days. Zinn reading of American History from the bottom up changed the way I looked at things forever. His activism was inspirational.
At the UCLA demonstrations you had all these students of multiple ethnic backgrounds holding little print-outs saying “do not Taser me I am a student.” The response of the students was too little and miserly. I know that I will be bombarded with emails about how the best thing to do is to let the law take revenge. I agree. But a little more noise does not hurt. If you read about how the Jews of Germany complied with the Nazi authorities until it was too late you will see that inaction or soft action amounts to appeasement.
I know that the U.S government and Americans in general are not Nazis nor are Americans of Islamic or Middle-Eastern descent treated like the Jews in Nazi Germany. But if we do not respond with passion and well-placed anger then who knows how far things will go? Some crimes merit a poetic response. Those students should be a little more concerned about defending their integrity and a little less about their grade-point averages! If a forty-something mom that I am becomes this angry watching one of her own get beat up (nothing wrong, by the way, for feeling more for an Iranian than someone else, though Rodney King video moved me just as much) then why not the much younger students of UCLA who have surely read their Thoreau, Malcom X and Howard Zinn.
Also, where are our big personalities in all of this, where is Christian Amanpour and the woman who went to space (Ansari) or all the other Iranians we have in the Media and Academia? And is Reza Pahlavi dead or just hiding, afraid of being Tased himself? Everyone better make a big deal of this or this will be just the beginning of the persecution of a minority too busy making money and maintaining grade-point averages to stand up for itself.
To those students who sit at the computers in the Powell Lab at UCLA: every time you touch that keyboard instead of screaming your outrage, you are colluding with the system. If you don’t want to break windows at least go on strike. Like the French students do regularly for much lesser infractions of their rights.
Get up and stand up for your rights not with a little print out but with a fist. Believe me sometimes following the law alone is not a proportionate response. Sometimes, when one's very being is violated, offended and damaged one needs to stand tall and scream a scream that is so unbearable everyone will want to quell it. Comment