“What's wrong with you people, blowing yourselves up and all?” Dave blasted. “I mean what makes a person do it? Religion? Poverty? Lack of education?”
We were invited to a wine tasting party in La Jolla and were having a reasonable time, though my husband and I were rather disappointed in the quality of the wine and the party in general. Once again we both wondered why we had expected anything else from an American festivity. I mean do these people know how to have fun?
On top if it, as if I really needed this, I was being attacked by this young lawyer whose body, hair, and eyes the talk of the town between all single women I know. That day I came to realize Dave is also an American Jew.
His “what's wrong with you people” made my mouth open slightly in shock. I held on to my wine glass firmly. My husband fidgeted next to me. I was surprised that this nice young man, a few years older than myself, would suddenly go off on me like this.
“I dated this Iranian girl once. Real beautiful and nice! I just don't get it! Why is your country so screwed up? This whole notion of Jihad comes from your religion. So explain it to me, will you? Did you guys kill all the other religious groups in your country? All the Jews? Is that why all of Iran is Islamic? Oh by the way, are you a practicing Islam… or do you say Moslem?”
I was about to explain that to the horror of my grand mother, as a child of the Iranian revolution, I have absolutely no understanding or desire for religion, in any shape or form. However, I was feeling very hot at the moment. “Yes, I'm a Moslem,” I said.
“So tell me, what goes into your minds when you blow yourselves up? Don't tell me it's poverty or lack of education, because we've got tons of that in Africa and none of those Africans go around blowing themselves up. What's wrong with you people?”
“I haven't blown myself up.” I pointed out with a wide grin. “Not yet anyway.”
A few people, except him of course, laughed. Meanwhile I frantically wondered where I should begin. Should I speak of the formation of the Israeli state, the injustices done to the Palestinians, the fleeing of my own family from my homeland, a country we all still dearly love?
Should I speak of the deprivation, the suffering caused by all that has been destroyed for so many Palestinians? After all, why would any sane person in his right mind blow himself up, unless for the mere fact that he has nothing more to lose? Of course, this doesn't explain everything. There are always two sides to a story.
He kept going at it, discussing politics with me, but I had tuned him out long ago. It was my husband who brought me back to reality. Apparently, although I have become immune to such views, spoken or unspoken, he can still become irritated enough to respond.
“Well, you know, Americans haven't done the right things politically in many countries. This would never happen here. This is a country based on freedom.” Apparently he was not listening.
“Freedom for Americans maybe, but the rule doesn't apply to those countries American foreign policy has damaged, does it?”
Dave stopped for a second, eying my husband. I knew what he was thinking: these Jew-hating Germans! But my husband is anything but that. More so, as a young child he has lived in the Middle East and loves it, almost with the same intensity I do.
“It's amazing,” Dave responded, coming back to the subject. “Christians hate the Moslems, Moslems hate the Christians, and all of them hate the Jews.”
“If it's any consolation,” I said. “I don't hate you.”
A few more people laughed. I could have told him what I thought, as I had done too many times before with others. I could have gone into details, historical explanations, like my father had always fruitlessly done. I could have tried to make him see the world as we see it, but why? Why should I waste time on another ignorant fool so wrapped up in his own religion, his way of thought, that I can no longer differentiate him from those fanatic Hezbollahis I had grown to despise as a child.
I had a choice. I could stay and argue like I had done so many times before. I could try and explain. Maybe he would understand. Maybe he would see things from the other side of the fence. But it would be a waste of breath. I knew that already. And it wouldn't solve the real problem.
Besides I was tired … tired of it all: Tired of missing Iran and its warm Tehran nights, tired of this cold ruthless distance, tired of the anger I still feel towards those revolutionary guards roaming the streets in Tehran, tired of the extremists crushing the reform movement, tired of the fighting in Palestine and Israel, tired of the ignorance in this country, tired of the nostalgia, tired of the memory of so much that has been lost….
I am just simply honestly deeply tired.
I made my choice, right or wrong: I turned and walked away.