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That 70's show
Don't reenact what our parents created for us -- a show that burned all the bridges

By Linda Ghassemi
January 8, 2003
The Iranian

Daaneshgaah va Siaasat (university and politics) was the only common thing my parents had with their friends. They all talked about those days, that they tried hard, that they striked, that they protested for good. And they all shook their heads for friends who weren't amongst them anymore, friends who were brutally slaughtered. They tried to be father and mother for kids who lost parents in forgotten massacres, and forgotten easily.

I was raised amid all of these, with a chain smoking father and his passionate defense of communism; a man crying when he heard Kurdish music, or when reminded of his best friend who was executed.

I heard about my mom's co-worker, one the best math professors, who was wasted in jail for 15 years. I saw my grandpa being stripped of all his rights and position just for being a former high ranking official. His last twenty years were wasted sitting in his room pondering with memories of the good old times. We all know what intensified his Alzheimer's, feeling useless, fighting time, living with memories of the past and giving up on the present.

I was reading an interview with the daughter of the late Forouhars. She was saying: "They stole our revolution." All of a sudden I remembered my father saying the same sentence over and over, "They, Muslims, stole our revolution."

And now, I am here with a cousin who is American by heart and Iranian by blood and wants to know more about his roots. "So I hear there was a protest over in Iran, like 1979 by students, I heard it was pretty big." I wish I could see the protests the way he did, just a newsreel; people in the streets once walked by his parents.

For me the protestors have a face made of flesh and blood. They are my old pals, high school and college buddies.

I had a nightmare once; the guy I had a crush on in college was shot in his guts and found dead. For some reason the nightmare doesn't leave me, even now that I know he left Iran. I am scared, maybe some one else will be found dead, someone I really care about, one of my close friends.

"Protests," I sigh. " Yeah, every 25 years a revolution happens in Iran, it's almost time. I am 24 you know. I was born in 1979." And I think, what did the first bring for our family? Well it tortured and tore us apart, scattered us around the world.

I didn't know what it means to have the father's side family. I really didn't know until three years ago when we came to the U.S. and I met my uncles, who escaped Iran in 1979-80, just because they were -- I don't know -- educated in the U.S. and wouldn't fit in the Islamic Republic I guess.

One of my older cousins told me the story of crossing the border into Pakistan in a cowherd! His father paid a fortune to the hustlers in the border, and they didn't give him food for days. He said to my Father, "Iran doesn't exist for me any more."

We were the last existing members of our family in Iran. My grandma and one aunt are still back there, but how long will they will? Grandma is already 95-years old, and my aunt will come here as soon as grandma packs her bags.

I imagine my father in 1979, when he shouted "Down with Shah, Democracy". I see his face behind bars, with a shaved head. He was a student in 70s. He and mom had been through a lot. And then I look at myself, 24 years later. I am here, lucky to have a Green Card and lucky to be able to go an American school.

I am 24-years old, and looking into my future. I am denied of my home, my city, and my friends, I am confused. I don't feel at home here. I had a trip back home. I couldn't stand it there either. I don't belong to anywhere any more. My past; my history became a butterfly and flew away right before my eyes.

I can't have a home, maybe because my dad was a front-row student protester 24 years ago. He wanted to make the world a better place for all of us. But it came to a point where he begged us to leave. "You are not going to get anywhere here. Listen to your old man. Take your life, and run to somewhere a decent, educated, middle class fellow can live a normal life."

He always says, "It wasn't suppose to be like this, we were all fooled, we did all the sacrifice and at the last minute the Muslims took all the credit." He says it with rage.

Nobody knows how much I miss him, my old man who can't stop loving his land. When he comes here he can't breathe well and wants to run away. Whenever we ask him to stay more, he says "Why?"

He is the one major thing I miss from home. He was somehow the balance, the discipline in our lives. I know he didn't have a good night's sleep since we moved out of home, since mom had to stay away from home for a long time. It wasn't enough for him to loose his siblings to America. Now he has to loose his kids to it.

He sleeps in my room now. He can't stand the master bedroom; mom and dad's room. "It is too big and messy for me, you know."

I ache for him every minute, but I know of all the people, he can't leave his land. He invested, risked, and spent his life for that land. He can't live anywhere else. I am scared. One day he can't even communicate with his own grandchildren, Iranian by blood, but Americans by heart. Like my cousin, his nephew.

And then I see the protesters, young students, full of life, full of ambition. Like my father in his college picture, like my mom in her memories. I see them going to the streets, wanting a better life. I hear the shootings every night in my nightmares. I know that some of them are in the same jail my parents spent their honeymoon.

I wish I had a crystal ball that showed them the future, and I just want to wish that their kids' future are better than my parents'. I want their kids to have a land, to have a home, not lost to history, with an erased past. I wish history doesn't repeat itself. Unfortunately, a lot of times it does. Take it from me, a history buff.

I am not sure if the students know what they are doing! They are students who have got nothing to loose except their life and a 1000-toman bill in their pocket. They are angry; they have the right to be angry. I was angry when I was back home. But the whole country is not all about students. What about other people? Why should young people's lives always be sacrificed?

I am not sure what I really want to say. Maybe all I want to say is "Think before you protest." I am not discouraging anybody from claiming their basic rights. No I want them to be strong and don't let anybody deny what belongs to them.

But please, please think about the future, think about your kids, think about the next generation. Maybe they want to live in their land, maybe they can't forget their past. Maybe all they want is to live and die in their hometown. Please, please don't reenact that 70's show our parents created for us -- a show that burned all the bridges, a show that stole the lives of many from my generation.

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