By Massud Alemi
On the surface, Mr. Nabili is warning us about the waning of a metaphorical bond that supposedly glues all persons of Iranian origin. He laments the dissolution in the proverbial melting pot, for which the U.S. is known, of the Iranian community in Houston, Texas. ("Keep Me Out of the Melting Pot")
He bids Iranian-born persons not to forget that the "secret of our success has been the fact that we have held on to our cultural roots..." It is this rhetorical reference to "roots" that provoked me to respond.
I should know a thing or two about "rootlessness" for I've been in the business of migration for some time. You see, I'm an emigrant from Iran and a newcomer in the States. I have a theory that our nostalgia about Iran is a nostalgia for a place which no longer exists.
We have created not uncommonm notions to explain this gnawing feeling. Not uncommon among immigrants of other nations who have managed to build small ghettos and Chinatowns and Little Italys and such in the periphery of mainstream
We each have constructed definitions for our "Iranianess" and "cultural identity" and "roots.".But when I look under my feet I see no gnarled growths sprouting through the soles. Roots, I tell myself, are a conservative myth, designed to keep people in their places.
We Iranian migrants, however, have performed the act about which all persons have dreamt since the beginning of time; the very same thing for which mankind has envied the birds: countering the force of gravity.
We know gravity, but remain ignorant of its origins. To explain why we are so attached to our birthplaces, we pretend to be trees, and speak of roots. What is the opposite of gravity, which keeps us well-grounded (therefore, well-behaved)? Why, it's anti-gravity, rootlessness or flight; in other words: migration.
To fly and to flee: both, I might add, are ways of seeking freedom. Why not take this freedom and do something useful with it?
We may never become thoroughbred, red-blooded Americans or Britishers or French or New Zealanders. But we have lost the privilege of remaining Irianian also. No amount of support for businesses owned by Iranian-born citizens around the globe, no amount of dancing to the music of Iranian parties will return to us the Iranianess we once had.
A Persiantown or Little Tehran desired by so many will only be a freak creature that will have no resemblance to that Iran which Mr. Nabili and many others pine for. While keeping up the ritual of one's culture admittedly might have some degree of therapeutic effect, it can hardly be taken as an index of one's individual or group identity.
The "Iranianess" that is defined "over-there" is no longer with us; we lost it when we crossed the border. Now we are something else.
You see, we are transforming. It is this thing that we have become which must be dealt with, defined, analyzed, extrapolated. If we stopped doing what we were doing five years ago (which admittedly gave us a sense of solidarity and identity) does it mean that we have abandoned our identity? It might just be that our identity is a-changing.