Gregory Peck Was Iranian

It was very casual, Gregory Peck's Iranian-ness


Gregory Peck Was Iranian
by siamak vossoughi

Gregory Peck was Iranian.  That was the only explanation for it.  He was speaking in English and his characters had American names like Atticus Finch and even particularly American accents sometimes, but if he was going to be as principled as he was, if he was going to be so attuned to the story of the search for justice, and so sure about how much of that story to tell and how much to hold inside him, then the only explanation that made any sense to me as a boy was that he was more or less Iranian, and languages and names and accents didn't have that much to do with it.

He looked it too.  Not just the black hair and brown eyes that looked even darker in black-and-white.  It was the way he kept something of who he was for himself and something for the world.  I didn't see that in the Americans around me.  They seemed to come right out with all that they were at any time.  I didn't see it in the P.E. teacher who asked me why I hadn't changed my hard-to-pronounce name when I had come to America.  He didn't seem to be keeping anything for himself.

I saw it in Iranians, though, in the way they had a place to go to other than the moment right in front of them.  I saw it even in the loud and talkative ones.  They had Iran, for starters.  They had Iran to go to subtlely when they spoke in Farsi to each other, and not so subtlely when they sang the sad Iranian songs at the end of the night when my parents had gatherings at our house.

Gregory Peck was not speaking in Farsi, but he always looked comfortable to get lost in memories of times and places when the principles that were missing from the life around him had had a chance. 

And the truth was they had probably been just as missing back then, just as there had been a lot that was unprincipled in the Iran that was left behind, but it was the remembering oneself, and remembering how a man was a time and a place all by himself, as big as a country sometimes, and he was always more than the moment in front of him. 

The Iranians we knew couldn't help but remember that, even the ones who did change to easier-to-pronounce names, like my Uncle Mehdi, who told Americans that he was Mike.  They looked too awkward if they really tried to forget.  My uncle would've rather watched a movie with Steve McQueen than Gregory Peck, but he still knew he was more than the moment.

It was very casual, Gregory Peck's Iranian-ness.  I didn't really think about it until I was a grown man and I saw him being interviewed about his boyhood growing up in California.  Wait a minute, I thought, he is not Iranian. 

And I laughed for a while because being Iranian and growing up believing that anybody who had a little part of them that was quiet and dreaming was a little Iranian to the same degree was such a funny thing.


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by shirazie (not verified) on

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