In college in the United States, I became friends with Iranians from all each ideology and religious background, amazed to find folks who had also grown up with “noon-o-panir” and “maast-o-khiar”. We were royalists, radical leftists, mujahedeen-ists, atheists, muslims ba’hais, jews, armenians, christians, kurds, and turks. We grew up in poverty or with privilege, drove mercedez benzs and old saturns, gyrated to persian pop music pumped in from California or grew up listening to Led Zeppelin, but it didn’t matter in those golden days. We blurred our ideological oppositions with the help of alcohol and the lure of belonging – as most do in the pursuit of friendship. As the cloud of college faded, the reality of ideology set in and the frown lines became more apparent. How could we be able to get past our politics?
The recent conflict in Gaza has been particularly tense – especially as I learn more and become more decided about where I stand. It has become increasingly difficult to have conversations with my friends about the issue without grimaces, trepidation and worries of ruining friendships over ideology. As a feminist I was taught that the personal is political and the political is personal: and the line between work, politics, life and friendship is purposely blurred. So when your politics define your identity, how do you deal with those that hold positions that threaten your very existence?
I’m watching the tension envelop our social networking sites, where we are fighting the war in our facebook statuses. I see friends making statements advocating murder, and it frightens me. I wonder if my own public statements could ever been contrived as inhumane, when I so clearly see those by some of my friends as inhumane. I don’t know how to begin those conversations with those friends that hold views opposite to my own, when I see conversation as the ultimate tool in creating positive social change and addressing opposition.
As an Iranian, I know all too how well our political ideologies have fractured our diaspora in the States. At various points in Iran’s history, our ideologies were a question of life or death. How did we ever come together in solidarity as Iranians, when we were having heated and passionate conversations about our ideologies – our very being? But perhaps that is the very root of our issues in achieving solidarity: why the community is unable to always organize against racist attacks, lobby together for common interests, much less identify those common interests to begin with.
Where do we start that conversation?