The Iranian Americans: Reluctant Winners Or Whiners?

Watching the PBS program “The Iranian Americans“, one can only be struck by the overwhelming self pity, sadness, and general lack of any satisfaction in spite of the overwhelming success of the stories that the subjects attempted to portray as the quintessential average Iranian American condition.
Whether true or not, whether we all feel this depressed in the US or not, it is highly presumptuous, largely unattractive, and rather embarrassing. While we are this successful. Certainly it does not do what these kinds of documentaries are supposed to do, which is to once again, sell the American Dream as described by these Iranian immigrants.
It is clear that Hamid Biglari, was disappointed in not being able to go back to Iran after he completed his education in the US after the 1979 revolution, or as he put it, “The expectation we had when we came here was that we would get our education here and go back to Iran… as it turned out… the Iranian revolution interfered with those plans…”. Sigh… Deep Sigh….
And if you watch Biglari’s genuine sadness while giving this interview/testimony sitting on his gilded Louis the IV style throne-chair with an entirely gilded Louis the IV style palace-home in the background, you would actually find yourself feeling sorry for one of the richest Iranians alive. But then you suddenly “Wait a minute!!! wake up, and realize that the overwhelming fact is, if Biglari had gone back to the Shah’s Iran, there wouldn’t have been a Head of Emerging Markets and Vice Chairman of Citicorp, job waiting for him there! Mind you, Head of Emerging Markets and Vice Chairman of Citicorp, is “the strategic operating arm of Citigroup”. One of the most advanced banking systems in the world.
In all likelihood, Biglari would have gone into his original line of work. Which I guess according to what he majored in in College, was Physics. And he would have merely risen to whatever prominence his family’s and his own Tehran real estate side investments, his day job salary in Physics would have allowed. Maybe his dad had “those” connections.
But no, let’s stop a minute and see, Physics in a Shah’s Iran? vs Head of Emerging Markets and Vice Chairman of Citicorp? Hmmm, Citicorp…? Shah….? You know I’m going to go out on a limb here and stick with, Citicorp is better? To put it in banking terms, the Net Present Value of Hamid Biglari as Head of Emerging Markets and Vice Chairman of Citicorp is FRICKING AWESOME! Come on! Pining teary eyed for your childhood Iran of yore? Seriously?
While Jimmy Delshad might too, yearn for the American Tarzan films he used to see back in Iran, had he stayed, trust me, no one in Iran would have ever given him an honorary mayorship for simply being on the city council of any city in Iran. In Iran, Delshad probably wouldn’t have become the charming “town character” that he is in today’s Beverly Hills. Although it is more likely he would have been far richer, being a Jew in a revolution free Shah’s Iran, than just one more bottom of the Torah pole Iranian Jew in LA.
Watching this show one got the sense that Firouz Naderi, was sadder leaving behind his “books, apartment, and car” in Tehran during what I am now going to simply call the 1979 “period of discomfort”, than running the entire US Mars Mission!
Goli Ameri, I’m leaving out altogether. Well except for anyone this dumb to work for the Bush administration, and then brag about what has merely been the kissing of the Biggest Ass in US Foreign Policy History, and calls that an accomplishment, has deep issues of denial. And it only proves how damaging the revolution really was. It let Ameri out! One can only imagine the misleading and totally incorrect assumptions about Iran over cocktails and conversations with Condi…
Et tu Firoozeh? Et tu? Although she tried to do her part correctly, and push the US gave us the opportunity to become something…, Dumas could not help but feel guilty and sorry for her dad who gave up “everything” to bring his family to the US. Or, what every immigrant pretty much considers. Namely will we be better off here? Or will we be better off in the US? As result of her father’s correct thinking process and genius gamble, Dumas has now made a reasonably successful career out of helping Americans laugh at the cute nuances of being Iranian, and the priceless amusant, of being Persian in general. Including a great non-Iranian husband she would never have met, and an accomplished English writing career! Do the math Firoozeh. You’re far better off now than if you had never come to the US. Thank your dad, then stop feeling sorry for him. When he looks at you, he certainly doesn’t.
Dumas’ heightened sense of responsibility identifying our identity for Americans however, was spot on and one of the fewest of bright spots in this show, when she exposed the Mythical Iranian Food Fetish. That we get a psychosexual pleasure out of feeding you until you explode. That it is considered only common courtesy to fill your guest’s plate for them, piling khoresht upon polo upon more khoresht upon more polo, solely to feed your own deep sick desires. All the more titillating when the guest finally angrily protests “No! Thats too much!”. Sweet Victory!
Folks, please. These kinds of films have ONLY 2 functions. FIRST to showcase our real culture to Americans, and SECOND to show how us being here makes the US a more richer place with our presence. These films are supposed to be the Iranian “Patch” in the ongoing Quilt. Our version of Feta in the Great American Melting Pot of Cheese. Not a whine festival of crying for the good old days, that could have been, would have been, should have been, but to be absolutely mentally healthy and honest about it, were never really going to be as good as we’ve got it here.
The specimens chosen for these interviews are some of the most privileged, lucky bastards on the planet (and apparently Mars!), whose success here in the US far out performs anything they could have ever dreamed of achieving “back home”. Proof is, they never dreamed of it when they were back home!
Biglari would never have been among the world’s banking giants, that he is today. He didn’t even major in finance!
Naderi wouldn’t have even thought to fly a paper plane out a window, never mind send a rover to Mars! Apparently he sort of “fell into” the most advanced space mission in the history of the world!
Dumas wouldn’t have visited Disneyland as many times as she has, or had a single interesting thought to write about in English from Iran, and likely would never have found out how well and accent-less she can speak it.
While the tears of regret over losing an ideal Iran that they have concocted daily in their heads over and over for over 30 years now, may well be strong and powerful, and even seem real to them, but folks, please, snap out of it! Look at yourselves for God’s sake!
The success each has achieved, is so far beyond anything that even the most self deluded Iranian could ever imagine. This generally wimpy poop-in-my-pants level of discomfort Iranians continually exhibit, while surfing the most primo waves on the planet, is our real nemesis. Not the revolution. Too bad this truth wasn’t depicted. But I wonder who would fund that film? Because I would certainly pay to see it.
Then again, admitting to the world that we’re never really ever satisfied, would have actually been far more embarrassing than this program was. Maybe that is why this film had to be funded by those usual few who usually fund this sort of usual crap. The biggest insult of this film however, is that even though it was funded entirely (really, who would fund garbage like this otherwise?) by the same rich Iranians, it was saddest of all, not made BY Iranians. Apparently there are no Iranian filmmakers in the Southern California Iranian Jewish community. Really? Not one? I know Iranian wedding videographers who could have made a better film! And would have killed to.
But these kinds of guaranteed debacles are always made with overpriced help from non-Iranians. Apparently these fund-happy Iranians do not want actual Iranians to make these sorts of films about real Iranians. Because, you know… Iranians… ew…yuck… Maybe this is why The Americans at PBS politely only ran “The Iranian-Americans” once. I hear CSPAN is planning on running it in a to-be-determined Tuesday night 2:00am slot. Maybe with a repeat at 3:00am. Maybe not. Hopefully not. Fingers crossed.
I knew better though, and luckily for me I did not waste any time watching it on PBS the forever to remain unremembered night that it was on. I simply waited like always, and got my inevitably free DVD sent to me last week. Sadly, I was right not to watch it live. On PBS. Not HBO or ABC or NBC mind you. PBS. PBS. The network that makes Community Access TV seem highly engaging.
Mohammad Khordadian, could have made the statement of the show by coming out. And really showing what the US has done for him and other gay Iranians. But, he just couldn’t seem to pull the trigger on the topic of modern Iranian sexuality. Which was stunningly disappointing!
The only real pleasure and honest truth was watching Maz Jobrani, who carefully explained nuances of Iranian culture and traits. It seemed Maz was the only interviewee who was genuinely happy to be representing True Iranianship in the US.
Maybe Maz is the only one who knows what the proper polite etiquette in this circumstance is. And maybe that’s why we love Maz, and why he is so funny in America. Maybe he knows that while it may seem to some, or maybe more than some, that an alternate reality of the perfect unislamified Iran, where the revolution- excuse me “period of discomfort” never happened, might sound good, and worth even whining about now, but no one, certainly none of these privileged folks, would have ever achieved even the slightest percent of the immense success that they have achieved today, had the past not happened exactly as it has.
The failure to see this, the failure to process this properly, and especially for these folks to understand the purpose of the film, and instead selfishly not thank their luck start and kiss the ground of a US that has continuously and consistently rewarded the nobodys of the world, who simply show up for work here, is the real Iranian story now and here.
I’m not a fan of everything about the US, but you have to admit that where personal success is concerned, for Iranians, the US is very well-fertilized. To do a half-hearted “notch” followed by a deep sigh, still wishing for a long lost and now imaginary Iran, at the same time they send the chauffeur driven Bentley to pick up some late night Persian take out, is THE Iranian Syndrome.
Not being happy with what you’ve got, when you’ve got a lot, never being able to give credit where credit is due, always looking past your blessings, and the sick yearning for an unclearly defined “more”, the very height of a kind of ungrateful arrogance, that one can only imagine was probably the real cause of the downfall of the Great Persian Empire. That ironically this summer as the Cyrus Cylinder wags it’s dirty finger at us, we must all especially espouse to be part of. Talk about inHumane Rights!
Folks, come on! Most Iranians have it real good in the US! Some, like the ones in this film, have it really really really great! We should be celebrating that! Not crying over spilt (and spoilt) Doogh.
Maybe Biglari can’t figure out how to find a decent noon panir o sabzi in Manhattan.
Maybe Naderi doesn’t know that if you soak your California walnuts in saltwater overnight they taste pretty damn close to the ones you used to buy off the Tehran street vendors in the seventies.
And maybe Firoozeh hasn’t yet discovered the outstandingly close Sangak that Yeganeh Bakery in Sunnyvale bakes.
But fond memories of Iran, now obsessively idealized and deified into a bitterly rancid wine by the passage of three decades of dwelling on it, doesn’t diminish or erase the fact that, in the US and the world at large, Iranians are apparently damn accomplished. We should be proud of that. And we should be happy. And above all grateful.
That would be an inspiring film. Iranians being grateful for the incredible opportunities they have been given to become hugely successful. Instead we got this.
Even if 1979 took away your imaginary happiness, don’t you deserve a bit of real happiness here and now? No? Not even just this much? Come on! Try some! Just a little bit! Please! I slaved over it all day! Here, just put this much in your mouth and see how good it tastes. And for dessert, how about some homemade rosewater flavored Humble Pie?

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