I have just been watching the TV. It is 11:07 a.m. Tuesday September 11, 2001. A day I hope will not live in infamy.
Shock and dismay and mixed feelings of sadness and anger are taking turns churning in my stomach. The New York skyline which filled me with excitement in my youth, every time I approached it with my Toyota from Route 95 coming from Boston, is no longer. I weep thinking of the panic, the people, the children's limbs. I weep thinking of New York, that noisy crowded city, which always made me feel somehow at home.
They play on the TV the images of the Twin Towers falling, one then as if to follow in delayed reaction the other, in amazing precision never losing their shiny, silver veneer until they have turned to magnificent clouds of smoke engulfing Manhattan. The sky is so blue and the buildings fall with such gracefulness that one cannot help think of its resemblance to some Hollywood film.
Sometimes they cut to images of a smoking Pentagon and the hectic confusion in the White House. I have already called my husband and am debating whether to pick up the kids from school. In times like these we feel vulnerable and want to be there covering our kids no matter how far from the center of it all we are. The usual commentators and experts with Americanized Arab names throw around familiar names and terms — “Hezbollah,” “Osama bin Laden”, “Hamas” — and I find myself praying that some right-wing militia will step forward and claim the blame.
I think to myself, was it not enough that I lost everything to these Muslim fanatics that now I have to worry about my family being ostracized because of terrorist activities? I think of the current President and his lack of a foreign policy and get even angrier. Here I am a worried American mother on the one hand and an Iranian who knows she will be stopped even more often at airports on the other. Here I am mourning the lives of those people who died in one of my favorite cities and I have to worry about whether my kids will be harassed in school. This I thought is the predicament of us secular-minded Iranians, forever doomed to be associated with our very enemies, our hezbollahi compatriots.
Not only do I have to read and see images of the public floggings, hangings and stonings in my own country and weep for that, I also have to live in fear of being associated with the people who commit these atrocities. I mean, here, where I live, they do not know the difference between an Iraqi and an Irani or an Usama bin Laden or my friend Ladan. They, so sadly ignorant of geography, really see us as all the same — fanatic others.
A while ago I wrote a panegyric about the wonderful liberty that one can enjoy here in America. That wonderful liberty is impossible to hold for long in a world where local angers can take a jet across oceans. It does not really matter whether these terrorists are right-wing American militiamen angry at the government or Muslim fundamentalists angry at Israeli excess. What these attacks epitomize is the impotence of democratic governments and peace-loving civilians vis a vis fanaticism.
We, the free-thinking people of the world, are under attack today. This is not a typical attack with one nation declaring war on another. This is not Pearl Harbor. This is fanatics, people who are willing to kill innocents and die for their ideas, declaring war on all civilians. Its message is clear: no one, no nation is safe from their anger. America and Americans can no longer ignore the problems of the world. Injustices have a way of spilling over, affecting all of us. Israel bombs some village, Bureau of Tobacco and Fire Arms blows up a compound in Waco, and all of us end up paying for it.
So much for pursuing an isolationist foreign policy. America has to be more engaged and take responsibility for the monsters it creates weather in Afghanistan or Texas. It hurts us Iranian-American's to see yet another reason for being ostracized, another reason to be finger printed and photographed, another reason to see a nephew denied a visa to come and study here, blossoming.
Someone just mentioned Pearl Harbor on TV and I cringe. Could that prairie freedom that I praised in my previous article come to a definite end for me and my family, openly Iranian, here in this little town of ours? What kind of looks will I get when I go to pick up the children? In the worst case scenario, could we be treated like the Japanese were not so long ago? And if it happens that we are blamed for the crimes of our enemy/brothers — in the end who is to blame? Fanatics and those too ignorant to see them as a threat.
Fanatics of every color and creed everywhere are all enemies of all free-thinking peoples. The people who stone our women and hang our youth, the people who would cut me up for wearing lipstick are the same as those who call abortions murder and the Oklahoma bombing an act of heroism. They are all the same. Fundamentalist fanatics — blond or bearded, American or Iranian, makes no difference. The lines have been drawn, war has been declared, and no matter how different our ideologies, the sides are divided between fanatics and free-thinking civilians.
The division not only amongst Iranian but amongst all of us people of the globe is between the secular-minded and the religious zealots. Zionist Kahanna follower or Islamic Jihad member make no difference. They are a threat to all free-thinking people of the world. Nothing defines and underlines our differences better than this difference. Let us hope that our host nation remembers that the “us and them” here is not one nation and another, but free-thinkers and fanatics, regardless of nationality or race.