I read your article — “Proud of what?” — with interest. You certainly make an intriguing point. However, there are a few points that I need to highlight:
1. What is national pride anyway? And is it a positive thing? Should we not concentrate on our humanity? Nationalism concentrates on our differences, it divides rather than unite. In an extreme, it ultimately manifests itself in behavior such as Nazism, as the current jingoistic behavior of many Americans, as racism, as genocide, etc. Nationalism is often retrospective not progressive. It is stuck in the past instead of looking into the future.
Although it is useful to be aware of who one is and the basis and the essence of one’s cultural heritage, one should concentrate on becoming the best individual example of humanity he/she can be now and in the future, and not what he/she has done in the past (or even worse, what the people born in the patch of dirt in which he/she happens to have been born have been or done in the past).
2. Even if we took national pride in its progressive aspect, I must say the concept is extremely a relative one. Something that is cause for pride for one could be a source of embarrassment for another.
3. It is also interesting to note that for many people and nations, the source or cause for pride of the people and that of the government differ. You mention that in a country like Iran, there is nothing of which to be proud. Now this – if we are inclined to be given to nationalism and national pride – I think is only partially correct. There is very little – if anything – that the IRI has done of which one can be proud in this I agree with you.
However, over the twenty six years or so since the advent of the so called “Islamic Revolution”, there have been many Iranians who have achieved great things that make us all “proud” (by all I mean all members of the human brother/sisterhood). Usually these people have been fighting against the objectives of the IRI, hence my point. Besides, there are many other people of Iranian origin who as scientists, engineers, journalists, physicians, and artists have contributed enormously to make this a better world for us all. As a member of the human race, I am proud of every one of them.
So in response to your question; “How many of us really feel proud when westerners ask us about the murder of Zahra Kazemi and we have no rational answer to give them? How many of us feel proud when Iranians are being tortured and killed in prisons simply for disagreeing with the regime?” I must say that as a thinking, feeling human being… I AM. I am proud that in Iran there are brave people who stand up against tyranny and corruption, the same way that I am proud of all those who fight for freedom and justice everywhere. It has nothing to do with location of one’s birth.
And then there are a couple of other points:
4. Hafez was born circa 1320 AD and died in 1388 or 1389 AD. That is only around 700 years ago. We haven’t had Hafez for THOUSANDS of years as you suggest, only a few hundred years.
5. Your statement; “When the West is making technological breakthroughs, our people are still hooked on the actions of fictitious religious figures like Mohamamad, Ali and Hossein who lived two centuries ago.” makes no sense. Firstly you call Mohammad (whose name you mis-spell), Ali and Hossein as fictitious people. Do you know what the word fictitious means? It means fictional, fabricated, untrue, to simply put… made-up. So they could not have been fictitious and LIVED two centuries ago! Besides the fact that these individuals did have historical reality, they also lived not two centuries ago but about 14 centuries ago. They lived before Hafez!
6. Your statement; “like the six-year-old who strapped grenades to his waste and blew up an invading Iraqi tank in Ahvaz,” I hope the little boy did not do that. It would have made a mess of things. It would have thrown garbage and feces all over the place. Pessare Gol, you mean WAIST not WASTE. Get it right or you will not be a source of national pride.
7. Your statement; “Persian kings, Cyrus the Great, was the first to write the first charter of human rights in an … ” is both weak from a logical/linguistic view point and is also historically inaccurate. A person who writes the first of anything is the first person to do so. Also Cyrus was not the first person to write a charter of human rights. His charter is amongst the best known, and it is amongst the first with an expansive “global” view, but it is certainly not the first.