My House Has Many Rooms

Once again, I’m taken to task by fellow Iranians for not turning my exclusive attention to the latest important event in the Middle East—the assassination in Lebanon—and not showing enough concern about the Syria/Nasrallah/Ahmadinejad shenanigans or the Iran/Turkey pitch for supremacy in that part of the world. True, the situation is distressing and I would love to see Iranian-backed Assad pay for the murder of more than 30,000 Syrians in recent months and for all the crimes of Hezbollah in Lebanon, including this latest one.

I would love to see the Iranian mullahs sink into oblivion—replaced by better or worse, who knows? But even I, the perennial optimist, cannot believe that any of these benighted countries will ever improve or even evolve. Right now, I am much more preoccupied by the reelection of Obama—a Romney/Ryan victory would make the Bush years seem like a golden age—and its per se importance, and not, like other Iranian-Americans, only because of the impact on Iranian politics.

There are some 204 countries in the world. I cannot be interested in all of them and I fail to see why people are irritated by my lack of intense scrutiny of Iran and its neighbors. If anything, they should dismiss it as a flaw in my mental setup and move on. But no, they keep picking at this particular scab. The more understanding among them tell me that they can see why, given the tragedy that hit my family with the Iranian Revolution of 1979, I would turn my back on my country of origin. I’ve stopped explaining that the theocracy in Iran turns my stomach not for personal reasons but because it’s repulsive (these critics fail to grasp the concept that not everything need be seen through a personal prism); that Islamic countries on the whole are sliding toward extremism and that in a few decades what I consider the civilized world will have lost its relevance.

When asked about the difference between Western thought and the rest of the world, controversial French philosopher Luc Ferry has this to say (loosely translated): “Despite all its faults, European civilization is, I believe, superior to all others to the extent that it is the civilization of autonomy. It’s the first civilization that treats human beings as adults and not as minors. To say this does not signify contempt of others—there are magnificent creations in the Arab-Muslim, Persian, or Oriental traditions. But it does mean that with European civilization, humankind finally comes into its own on aesthetic, moral, intellectual, and metaphysical levels.” Perfectly put.

And yes, I am fascinated by many things, including politics, in many parts of the world. And although I cannot wait to visit the splendid new wing of the Louvre Museum dedicated to Islamic arts, I also long to read and see and hear and enjoy many other things that have nothing whatsoever to do with either Iran or the Middle East. As I said, my house has many rooms—a friend recently called it a mansion. If only…

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