A country's natural beauty must be coupled with the peace of mind that can only come from a modern and stable government. For me to go to the Caspian Sea, I have to travel thru 4 hours of traffic from Tehran, risking my life and loosing my sanity along the way just to wind up somewhere “beautiful.” Okay so I may be called a Francophil or even an Arab lover by some, but I will take that risk and admit that I prefer to spend holidays In France or even Dubai, where I feel safe, free. I have found that I can easily learn to appreciate what nature and the minds of men and women can create.
I do not see beauty in repression and forced hijabs, even alongside mountains, creeks and trees. A repressive and greedy regime looses its natural beauty once it becomes infested with smoke, stress and death. Does Saudi Arabia promote life when it doesn't even allow its people to have a movie theater in their neighborhood, or drive a car if they aren't male — or lead some semblance of a life that compares with the rest of the world? They have mountains, ancient ruins, and history, but what good do they serve when people are depressed because people must cope with traditions created thousands of years ago? At least they have imported technology and a good economy, so people can survive by living for the next vacation abroad.
Does Iran promote the beauty of life when the poor guy waiting for the ambulance at the passport office dies because it takes over 2 hours to reach him through traffic? What happens when you imagine green hills or majestic mountains in the backdrop? What's the point in constantly revering ancient ruins, houses of worship, Shomaal or Kish Island when governments can't are stuck in backward traditions and discourage visitors from all parts of the globe?
Pride you say? Where does pride alone get us in this world? Pride is turning a blind eye to reality, my dear Persian. Beauty is no longer only natural, it is man-made and interdependent on mankind. If a country can't get into the WTO, for example, that means they are a royal pain in the ass to deal with.
Coming from Iran, I will be the first to admit it's a tough place to visit, even for me — an Iranian citizen! I want to go to a place and have the option of five-star luxuries, not three-star roach-infested “luxury hotel” that robs tourists. I am no snob, but this is a part of what makes a country attractive to the visitor, no matter where they come from. The world has changed and there's no going back. We must always look forward and expect more customer service, more technology, more advancement and more education. If a country isn't moving in that direction clearly there is something wrong!
A country's beauty gets hijacked, ruined, demolished by devastation, greed, smog and natural causes.When beauty isn't preserved, or becomes ruined by the stress of a rotting government, it's a mere shell of what it could be. Our nation, Iran, never had the chance to meld modernity and tradition into a successful duo. And its psyche was devoured by war, poverty and havoc on the souls of its people. It's not clear what will turn it around at this point, but riding on the coattails of past glory is a sad way of preserving self dignity.
We have all had to fight along the silk route of the revolution to know who we are, and how we can preserve what's left of being Iranian. For example, some insist it's Persian not Iranian, because it reminds us of a Rostam-inspired dreamy past. Well, unless you were born when it was still Persia, then you are currently Iranian. Some change their names to Mark or Dave and some introduce themselves as Italian. Here's a tip: tell people you come from Malta; few people know where it is and chances are they don't speak Maltese!
As a people, we are damaged. As a country, Iran isn't what it used to be and its people have had to deal with self-esteem issues that stem from being hated, feared and just plain misunderstood. Our people lost what good they had on their own, and without intervention from “those Arabs.” It's not rational anymore to hold a grudge against Arabs and “their religion” when the fact remains that all the Arab countries in the Persian Gulf are also mainly Muslim but are doing better than Iran.
Who was holding Bush's hand in front of TV cameras? Not Khatami, but Saudi Arabia's uneducated Crown Prince Abdullah. I didn't vote for Bush but as the most powerful president in the world, a friendly gesture from him could go a long way.
The sad fact remains that Iran is going backwards, while others are moving forward. All of our beautiful hills and mountains, artists and painters, are victims of Iran's demise. Those of us who made it out have to deal with the politics of being a minority, racism and ultimately integration. And there is nobody to blame but ourselves for our pain and suffering. Please don't defend that which you helped create with references to nature or the ancient past, and don't pretend that you had nothing to do with it because nobody believes you anymore.
Where is the beauty in the possibility that your child will commit suicide after college because of the bleak future ahead? Where is the beauty of Kish or Qeshm if you cannot lie in the sun with your son and husband at your side? What of the beauty of Mazandaran when the local Imam condones raping girls caught at house parties? I just can't see natural beauty among pain and lies anymore. I can't hold on to an ancient past when the present is rotting before my eyes. I would rather focus on reality, the future and helping Iranians move through this difficult phase in our history.