A friend of mine recently came back from a visit to California. As we settled down for a cold beer on a muggy Boston afternoon, he turned to me and said: “You know, the Iranians in California are nuts! They're sitting in front of their televisions, watching the Iranian channels, waiting for the revolution to come!”
His exasperated tone made me crack up. I nodded my head. July 9th has come and gone and the revolution that was to magically appear and once again sweep Iranians off their feet never materialized.
I'm sure those who planted that seed of thought in people's heads have a spin for it. I'm sure it's being presented as a revolution waiting at the door but being squashed by the evil ones. I'm sure there will be explanations that my tiny imagination could never come up with. But the fact exists: There has been no revolution.
There is another fact which deserves attention here. A couple of weeks ago, in response to various hate and non-hate emails, I asked the readership to send in what their visions of a future Iranian government would be. I have received about 10 responses, only a handful of which is an actual response to the question, the other half, just the same 'ol same 'ol bad mouthing sessions one has come to expect from monarchist quarters.
It could just be me, I thought. But then I heard that another Iranian group that had called for a straightforward expression of opinion from the Iranian-American community had gotten the same non-response. And suddenly it all made sense to me: The foaming at the mouth television programs urging people into the streets, the fake upping the ante rhetoric of a revolution around the bend, the “revolution is coming, the revolution is coming” whines pronounced from behind the television screens.
A revolution is coming because well, it's the easiest alternative, the only alternative that one can choose from the safety of one's cozy home abroad without having to lift more than the finger needed to operate the remote.
It all fits right into place. The Iranian-American community for the most part has created a self-identity most suited for apathy. The majority doesn't participate in American civil society because they say they're Iranian, and doesn't begin thinking of how to contribute to the future of Iran because they're living in the U. S. They reject organizations such as National Iranian American Council (NIAC) because rather than beat you on the head with rhetoric, it asks that you take action through letter writing and lobbying of Congress. And when asked point blank, what they want for the future of Iran, they give you a blank stare.
In an interview with Charlie Rose about his book on the American Revolution, the historian David McCullough discussed the level of popular participation in the 13 colonies before the writing of the Declaration of Independence. His point was that the founding fathers of the U.S. were not necessarily riding a tide of popularity. Most people, he said, were on the fences, waiting to see what would happen.
It just so happened they were lucky enough that Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Madison to name a few had jumped off the fence and were busy thinking about what the ideal form of government should look like. A revolution born of injustices did come, but it was preceded and followed by much thought and much learning.
I'm no idealist. I don't believe that people are noble creatures whose civic duty comes before their personal duties. I don't believe in unity (which sometimes is just another word for eliminating diversity of opinions). I don't think Iranians, inside or out, are in any shape or form better than other nations.
Still, the Iranian community outside of Iran is in a unique position to familiarize itself with histories other than its own “glorious” 2500 years, and with political thought other than the amazingly hollow mantra of “referendum” that is rarely followed by anything more constructive. They can demand from those who speak to them via radio, television, and the internet, for something more than just what's wrong with what exists. And most importantly, they can think for themselves, learn for themselves, imagine for themselves, and enunciate for themselves what are the liberties and rights they believe should be guaranteed for Iran.
We think the revolution is coming because it's the easiest solution north of the Caspian Sea. It's like deciding to light up a city with fireworks instead of electricity. Rather than have loud, bright explosions in the sky for as long as the fireworks last and think about the ensuing darkness later, why not tolerate the inconvenience of the dark (maybe read by the candlelight?) while electricity lines are installed and then have permanent light?