Today while spending a day at home, I heard a commotion coming from my son's room. Thinking that I had better make sure that he wasn't tearing the room apart lest his mother raise holy hell with him when she got home, I opened the door and walked in. He wasn't tearing the room apart at all. He was sitting on the end of his bed watching cartoons and chanting with the crowd of cartoon characters. Here was my ten year old boy with a clenched fist raised in the air, sitting on the end of his bed chanting “Marg Bar Shah” (Death to the King).
For a moment I couldn't believe what I was seeing and hearing. Here was my little American/Iranian child chanting along with his favorite cartoon program on Iranian state TV for the death of the King of Kings. My son must have been a bit embarrassed because he lowered his fist and gave me a sheepish smile. I walked over and turned down the television and told him that he didn't need to waste his breath in protest anymore as the Shah was more that quite dead and has been so for a very long time. I told my son that it didn't matter to me what he wanted to say in the house, but that I thought that he ought to make sure that he never said such words around his mother. He asked why? Without giving him the answer he wanted, I said “just don't.”
While I have a passing interest in the politics of your country, I do not feel the painful sting of the deep emotional scars that so many first-generation Iranian expatriates carry within them, just as my wife does. I want to careful here not to put words in her mouth, but I am fairly confident that she was never a true believer in and ardent supporter of the monarchy as it existed in Iran when she grew up there. She has told me many stories about her childhood and years of growing from an adolescent to a young woman in the Braim area of Abadan.
Among these stories are tales of the fear her parents instilled in her at a tender age to never speak out against the Shah or to even utter constructive criticisms about anything related to the Imperial government. She still today is extremely private with her opinions on nearly any subject and I attribute this to the fear she learned at an early age about the ever present possibility of disappearing in the middle of the night never to be heard from again at the hands of SAVAK. She is well into middle age now, but she still speaks in hushed whispers when talking about how deeply people feared that organization.
Having said this, however, she realizes that everything in life is relative except for two absolute certainties; taxes and death. She has taken our son to Iran many times and she has seen for herself what her beloved country has come to. The hopelessness and despair on the faces of so many bright and industrious young people always fills her heart with sadness. She knows that the maniacal masters of her country today are far more violent and murderous toward the people than the imperfect regime which proceeded them. She like most people who are given only the choice of standing in the frying pan or directly in the fire will opt for the frying pan.
She is lucky though. She, like many millions of others, has never lived as a fulltime resident under the blood stained banner of the Islamic Republic and for that I'm sure she is thankful. I can only imagine that it is much easier for her to have lived a life of missing her beloved homeland than to have endured a life of abject misery under the bloody boots of the demonic and deadly demagogues who are day by day bleeding the life and vitality out of the Iranian nation while simultaneously lining their pockets and robes with the nations oil wealth plundered year after year from the country's coffers.
No, my wife has had it relatively easy living in the West. Her worst encounter with the Islamic Republic of Iran came only last year when we visited Esfahan and she was detained in the airport by IRI Security Personnel for not having socks on her sandaled feet. She was only released after I promised that I would never allow my wife to go out in public again so immodestly attired. Esfahan may indeed be Nesfajahan, but as far as I'm concerned we won't be going back until the sock police are sacked. Either they don't have enough to do there or they are the kinkiest people I've ever come across. I've never heard of people getting sexually aroused by looking at a forty-something year old woman's toes.
I seem to have digressed considerably, so let me get back to the point… for there is one. Like, I said before I would never dream of putting words in my wife's mouth and my interest in your country, as you can see, is only in passing. What is of interest to me, however, is my son. I thought of telling my wife about his chanting with the cartoons characters for the Shah's death and then I decided against it.
Why should I upset her? There's no point in it. Neither she nor I need to correct these ideas that are being planted in his small head by the Government of God. That very government, the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran will do it for us along with the help of the entire Iranian nation. Together, they will most probably wipe from his consciousness and most certainly in the case of his children and grandchildren all that his mother has invested in him that is Persian.
Much to me wife's dismay, the children she carried in her body are relegated to status of nothingness within Iranian law and to a large extent by the culture she loves so much. While she certainly possesses a legal status in Iran, her children do not and they never will. When she eventually passes from this earth, her children will have no rights or obligations to the land, people or culture that she spent a lifetime teaching them to love and be proud of. They will simply be foreigners like me or any other non-Iranian.
How long to you suppose a person who lacks any legal status by a nation will hold tightly to the customs, culture and language of that nation? Not very long, I'm fairly confident. Although my son speaks more Farsi than he does English at home since he's with his mother more than me, the time is coming in his life when all his ties to Iran and its culture will be severed forever. I am sure that he will not teach the language of his mother to his own children when he discovers that they will never be able to travel there and even if they could they would be received as oddities who by a stroke of historical chance could speak the language of the Persian people.
I am sure that the deep pristine pool of Persian pride that his mother has given him will in the end be slowly drained away by the laws of Iran which provide that the children of Iran women who are fathered by foreigner men are themselves foreigners first, last and forever. I have no doubt in my mind that my son shall in the end, revert to that which the Islamic Republic of Iran wishes him to be… .he will become a true foreigner in every sense of the word. When his mother is no more with him, Iran will cease to be within him.
This isn't only a matter of regulations and legalities, however. It runs much deeper than that. I have enjoyed the privilege in my life of visiting Iran many times. I have seen with my own eyes how people react to my wife and my children when I am present. Many people are shocked that an Iranian woman could actually be married to a foreigner. They have never heard of something so outrageously scandalous. How, they wonder, could any decent Iranian father allow a foreigner to steal one of the flowers of Iranian womanhood? To make matters worse she has brought children into the world that are impure. They are freaks being part of neither parent's ethnic group or culture. This is the response that my wife and children have encountered from many everyday Iranians .
Before you decide to write me and tell me how wrong I am, let me say that I am not speaking of the educated and well traveled classes who have been able to see life beyond the blackened curtain of the Islamic Republic. I am not talking about those millions of wonderful Iranians who have lived their lives with broken hearts scattered like leaves in the wind in countless countries throughout the world. The people I am talking about are those who live in Iran and have been brainwashed into believing that it is not only wrong for an Iranian woman to marry a foreigner (even a Muslim foreigner), but it is beyond all rationality that any self-respecting Iranian woman would soil her honor and dignity and that of her family by entering a state of matrimony with a non-Iranian.
Believe me there are many people like this. You may refuse to believe it if you wish, but I've seen how my wife and children have had their feeling hurt by the callous comments of such people… .and not a mere few. For example, a few years ago my wife and I were strolling together on a lovely tree-lined street in Tehran when a young man approached us demanding to know why I was walking arm-in-arm with an Iranian woman. He was absolutely shocked when my wife explained that we were married. It was almost too incomprehensible to him to conceive of such a thing. He demanded to see some proof of what she said, upon which she showed him her Shanosnameh with my name written in it as her husband. He asked her why she would do such a disgraceful thing to herself and her father? As she translated for me, I could feel my anger beginning to rise and I told her to tell him to leave us alone as he was twenty two years too late to prevent the highlight for me of our wedding night, the consummation of our marriage. She told him and he glared at me, but he left.
Then, only three months ago I was in Tehran alone, visiting my in-laws and looking for a possible summer home to purchase. I had to visit one of the Iran Air Offices to reconfirm my return ticket. While there the young lady asked me why I was in Iran. When I told her that I was visiting my wife's parents she responded that I must be lying or playing tricks on her. I asked her why she thought such a thing and she said that it is illegal for an Iranian woman to marry a foreigner. I pulled from my coat pocket a photocopy of my Iranian Marriage Certificate written in Farsi with my photo and my wife's photo on it. This was the document given us by the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran (I learned long ago to always carry a copy of that with me in case the police ever stopped me for any reason).
The young lady upon seeing the Marriage Certificate said this can't be. Iranian women are prohibited from marrying foreigners. Then she looked up and said… .oh, your wife must be a non-Muslim. I began to laugh and asked why she said that. She said you are a Westerner. I said my wife has been a Muslim since the day she was born. The young woman then said this document must be a fake since Muslim women can't marry non-Muslims. I asked her how she knew I wasn't a Muslim. She said your hair, eyes and clothes don't look like a Muslim would have. Then just to confuse her a little more I recited Al-Fatihah for her in Arabic. She was shocked when she discovered that I had been a Muslim longer than she herself had been since she was only twenty-one years old.
These are just a couple of small examples of how the younger generation in Iran have been spoon-fed a diet of xenophobia for 27 years. Consequently, neither my wife nor her children ever need to concern themselves with being truly accepted. They won't be, it just that simple. A significant portion of her countrymen will always view her and her children as unusual at best and perhaps much worse. This applies not only to my wife, but to every other Iranian woman in the world who has married a foreign man and has had his children.
None of this makes me sad at all though. Why should it? My children are going to be driven back into the bosom of American culture and by whom? Not those terribly racist KKK fellows, but by their mothers own people. My children will eventually become more like me, thanks to people like you. I can't complain. On the contrary, I should thank you.
The denial of any sort of legal status for the children of Iranian mothers and foreign fathers coupled with the overwhelming cultural indifference and/or rejection of those children by many average Iranians only serves to insure that eventually all that is Persian in my children and others like them will be erased and they will become like slates wiped clean.
I predict that within two generations of my death and that of my wife that our descendants will not even have heard the words “Iran or Persian” in relation to their own existence in this world. It makes me happy that this will not come about by reason of any bigotry or discrimination on my part or any other American's part toward my flesh and blood. No, it will come about solely at the hands of your nation and your people.
I am sure that I made the right decision today in not correcting my child for chanting “Marg Bar Shah” because you yourselves will do it for me. You will wipe his slate clean. It's only a matter of time.