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Sehaty Foreign Exchange


November 11, 1999

Say something POSITIVE

As an American who has been married to an Iranian for 36 years, and lived in Iran for years both before and after the revolution, speaks fluent Farsi and is rarely considered to be a farangi anymore, and raised two bicultural children, I now feel compelled to write this letter, if only to get something off of my chest which has been building up for a while, ever since I read a certain article in The Iranian about a man who visited Isfahan, ate a lot of chelo-kebab, then complained that the restaurants weren't five-star quality ["My city Isfahan"].

Actually, it is something I noticed among Iranians years ago - before the revolution - and which I see now being repeated on the pages of The Iranian: a constant, obsessive urge in some Iranians for self-bashing, negativity and defeatism - and particularly the way they pass this attitude on to the next generation.

I don't know why some Iranians insist on this destructive self-deprecation (even when in the pretext of constructive self-examination), this overwhelming apathy and obsession for conspiracies. I won't even mention the compulsive, paralyzing nostalgia which has become common-place in the Iranian community in the U.S. Even worse is the insistence that anyone who has the slightest positive attitude about Iran is either naive or motivated by personal gain.

It is such a shame, particularly because Iran is a wonderful place and Iranians are wonderful people. Compared with lots of other countries in similar circumstances, Iran is quite well off. There is no reason to constantly compare Iran with the U.S.: the U.S. has its own problems, including corruption and mismanagement. And what is the point of comparing a nation which has just emerged from a war and a revolution to a rich superpower other than to re-enforce the sense of defeatism anyway?

Whatever negative things one may say about Iranian culture or politics, there is no other country or society in the world which hasn't done worse at some time or another. Iran is a nation which has gone from being a banana republic ruled by a typical third-world puppet regime to an independent country with a genuine internal political debate - even perhaps on the verge of becoming a genuine democracy - all in the course of just 20 years, and after a bloody war, totally on its own and in the face of constant vilification by various U.S. administrations.

I don't know of any other country in the region which has - or can even hope - to do the same. I don't know of any other society which could have maintained such genuine warmth and sense of personal connection in the midst of such incredible turmoil. Iranians should be proud of themselves and their nation. Other people from other countries are far more proud of far less.

I understand that there are some Iranian living abroad who have been traumatized by the revolution & the consequences of displacement, and who have reached a certain age and are reflecting on their past. Perhaps this negativity can only be expected from them. Perhaps they forget that there are also couple of generations of younger Iranians and American-Iranians who don't suffer from the same malady, who have a positive "can-do" constructive attitude, who love Iran and the U.S. even if they don't necessarily agree with the politicians, and see no particular reason to have to choose between their Iranian or American identities (and don't even pay much attention to such labels anyway). This generation isn't bound by the same attitudes and frustrations. They certainly don't sit around re-hashing what "the British" did 80 years ago, they don't pine for Googoosh ["Gharib-e aashenaa"], or whine about why the the internet cafe in Tehran isn't cheap enough ["Chai, shirini & the Internet"].

I have often wondered what explains this urge by the older generation of Iranians to constantly bash Iran, emphasize the shortcomings while ignoring the accomplishments, and impose their hang-ups, frustrations and psychological baggage on the youth. Perhaps it is a good excuse to do nothing - if everything about Iran is bad, everyone is corrupt and all the decks are stacked against you, then there is no point in trying to accomplishing anything, right? Perhaps it is a way of justifying one's own frustrations. Or perhaps the answer is simply that "misery loves company."

How about having something POSITIVE to say about Iran and Iranians once in a while then?

Lizzie Borden

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