The US Census Bureau and the Department of Labor should modify the way they categorize the population into groups and sub-groups based on race and skin color, such as American Indians, Caucasians, African Americans and Hispanics. Such stereotyping can adversely affect the welfare of certain classes.
For instance, take Arabs who because of fear of harassment end up checking boxes on job applications claiming that they are American Indians. If you question them about the degree of their purity as an American Indian they probably say “well my mom was 7/16 Cherokee and my dad was 11/32 Navajo.” I'll let you figure out what that would be in the metric system but the fact of the matter is that they were born just the other side of Kuwait City but if they are authorized to work, then their race should not be brought into question.
I recall that during college we had to struggle with this question on the job applications: “Did you ever serve in the military?” I had served two years in the remotest villages of Iran and it was no easy potato. But I could not answer “yes” because then the next question was, are you a veteran? Yes I was a veteran — a veteran of the war on illiteracy.
As a soldier with an education, I was a member of the Literacy Corps. But that didn't count. It was the Vietnam era, and I felt like a lard ass admitting I was fighting illiteracy instead of the Viet Kong.
Even during the time when the Shah was Nixon's best buddy and Ambassador Zahedi used to send the likes of Liz Taylor in private planes to Tehran, still you would never hear from the potential employer if you wanted to let all the truth be known about your ethnicity. So I would swallow my pride and just say “No” to the military question.
If we intend to classify Americans into distinct groups, the issue of ethnicity is no longer a valid issue. There are better and stronger factors that help statisticians determine public behavior and separate distinct “tribes” without stereotyping. With that in mind we divide Americans into two distint tribes:
A) The Coke drinkers and
B) The Pepsi drinkers
Iranians in the US can be divided into two sub-tribes:
A) The Doogh Khaanehgee (homemade buttermilk) drinkers and
B) Doogh Ab-Ali (trade mark fizzy buttermilk) drinkers
At any chelokababi anywhere in the continental USA order a doogh and the waiter immediately asks: “Would like homemade or Ab-Ali?”
Someone has stolen a well-known brand from Iran and gives the impression that indeed it's brought to consumers from Ab-Ali, the mineral water resort town east of Tehran. (Other disingenuous Iranian brand names in the US are poor Akbar Mashdi ice cream and Shamsheeri chelokabab. However, there are limits. You'll never see Asghar Ghatel braned on any product sold at an Iranian grocery stores here.)
The Ab-Ali brand I have no problem with. What troubles my fragile imagination is the way they make “homemade” doogh.
I visualize the restaurant owner's unhappy wife in the back alleys of Encino, California, toiling in the backyard of their house, with several ten-gallon plastic containers lined up under an oak tree, as her naked four-year-old plays in a mud puddle. The ten-year-old son helps mom make doogh with Safeway yogurt, salt, crushed mint, Arm & Hammer baking soda and ample water from the hose.
In any case I'm trying to suggest to the Census Bureau not to categorize people based on the color of their skin but according to their social behavior and taste. The following is the result of an unofficial statistical sampling generated from a recent telephone poll with a margin of error of +/-90%.
Voting and Economy
As many as 75% of Coke drinkers voted Republican during the last presidential election and will do so again if George Bush bends the Axis of Evil so far until it turns into a Circle of Evil. It will be much easier to control Evil if surrounded by a circle. The other 23% of Coke drinkers abstain from voting and watch sports on TV.
51% of the Pepsi tribe would vote Republicans if they legalize riverboat gambling on the Tigris and Euphrates outside of Baghdad. This would allow Iraqis to sample Western pleasures on their way to democracy, while singing Frank Sinatra's “I did it my way”.
The other 49% of Pepsi drinkers believe Saddam is alive and working as a busboy in a restaurant in Damascus best known for its lamb rotisserie. They will vote for Democrats no matter who runs for president as long as he is tall and handsome.
Some 75% of the Coke tribe lost all or most of their 401-K investments and retirement savings thanks to corrupt mutual funds, and the rest will lose them within the next nine months.
Of the Pepsi tribe 83% lost all their savings in the stock market but most received a check for $100 thanks to the Republican tax cut. The other 17% have no idea what's going on. They only keep football scores.
Some 70% of Coke drinkers have either no health insurance or if they do it's most likely a HMO that will not pay for most medical procedures. The other 30% decided not to get sick until they are 65 and qualify for Medicare.
Pepsi drinkers fair better: 71% are covered for life insurance and they pay hefty monthly premiums betting that they are going to die soon but the insurance companies bet that they won't die for a while. But, like Coke drinkers, 59% of Pepsi fans also do not have health insurance and rely on the power of prayer as the sole means of staying healthy.
About 68% of the homemade doogh lovers think the Shah is still alive and will return to Iran to kick some ass. The other 32% think his son will eventually say something that makes sense.
Nearly 99% of both tribes think their home phones are wiretapped by Homeland Security so they always talk in Zargaree dialect to confuse the listeners. The CIA is running ads looking for people who can speak Zargaree but they must relocate to DC area for $21,000 a year. Good luck!
The Ab-Ali lovers are among the most educated. Some 98% have a college degree, but of that group only 16% are working in their own field and the rest are in real estate business and most advertise their name as “Dr…”! It makes you wonder why would you need a doctor to buy a condo in Los Angeles?
Of the homemade and Ab-Ali tribes combined 70% call each other either “doctor” or “mohandes” and they kiss each other 4 times on the cheeks every time they meet. That's just the men. The women kiss the air so they won't smear their make up. The other 30% have suitcases that are as big as a Volkswagen. Most will argue with airline agents who demand fees for these suitcases that usually weigh no less tha a ton.
Future Census Bureau and the Department of Labor are studying these proposed questions to better understand population tastes and trends:
— Do you eat lamb, pork or beef? If the answer is “no” please explain why .
— Do you think Jesus is either God, son of God or messenger of God? If no, why the hell not?
— Do you pronounce it: Baklava, Baghlava or Buclava?
— Do you pronounce it: Kabob, Kaybob, or Al keebob?
— Do you think women should not be allowed to: sing, belly dance, drive, or get child support?
— Do you carry your daily prayer by: crossing your hand, crossing your heart, or bending over? If you bend over how many times a day and in which direction?
With these kindns of questions we will help the economy better serve the population based on their every day habits and tastes and without racial or ethnic stereotyping.
Next week we will discuss why a dying Iranian in need of an emergency medical operation cannot get a visa to the US but the grandson of Ayatollah Khomeini is granted a visa and given red carpet treatment.
Farrokh A. Ashtiani is the founder of PersianParadise.com