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I had a dream
How Harvard failed me

November 7, 2001
The Iranian

(Special thanks to those who brought to my attention the deficits of a Harvard education.)

The truth is out: I have a Harvard education and am not a monarchist! It is a stain on myself and all the shirts I have worn throughout my years. I have tried my darnest to hide it but alas, perceptive supporters of His Royal Majesty have let the cat out of the bag. I feel that an explanation is in order here.

It all started with a dream. I suffer from insomnia so when I fall asleep AND dream, I take it darn seriously. A young man came to me in my dream. He was wearing a pilot's suit and had trouble holding on to a fistful of earth. "Sit down," I said to him, pointing to the vast space surrounding us. He shook his head and mouthed something. "I can't hear," I mouthed back. "We're in a vacuum, sound doesn't travel." His mouth moved again as did mine. We went back and forth for a while and then I woke up in a sweat!

Oh my god! I realized. Harvard! That's what the dust-carrying pilot was telling me. Go to Harvard! And so I packed my bags, bid my parents and siblings farewell, and headed to Harvard.

Now Harvard is an odd kinda place. I was not prepared for it. Especially not for that tall ivory tower there. I walked into a class and sat down. The topic was something French or another. It seems a long time ago, the French, after having thrown out Napoleon, started craving for him again but he was dead so they settled for his nephew, a nice educated man who had written a book and even spent time in prison.

The nephew had lived most of his life in exile but when the French once again overthrew another regime and decided to become a secular democracy and even give the vote to all men (as opposed to those with property), he returned to France and stood for office. Nice man that he was, he stood for office as just another citizen. And so everyone voted for him. I mean c'mon, his last name was Bonaparte.

So anyway, Bonaparte the Younger becomes the French president and all was nice and dandy but in a couple of years he concludes this democracy business is not as fun as he thought. He remembered stories his Uncle Napoleon had told him: The court, the courtiers, the respect. Being a president was great, don't get him wrong. It was definitely better than sitting around in exile, twirling your thumb, and making statements no one listened to but still, after all these years of suffering, didn't he, the nephew of the great Napoleon deserve not to be criticized, not to have to run for office every couple of years? "Oh when will the agony end?" He thought to himself.

So one night, with the help of his loyal royalist he arrested all his critics, had a coup d'etat, and pronounced himself Emperor, per family tradition. And thus began the French Second Empire which lasted a long time. But it didn't have much going for it, and it ended with the tragic defeat of the French at the hands of the Prussians.

You can imagine my horror at hearing this story. Hmmm... I thought. Now that's an interesting little historical anecdote. Suddenly there was a knock on the windowsill of the class. "Oh no," I thought to myself, "Not again!" This kept happening since I had arrived here. Every time I had a non-monarchist thought, a man would appear out of nowhere. And now here he was again: He asked me to step outside. When I got there, he grabbed me by the shoulders (as I fully expected by now) and yelled at the top of his lungs: "WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING? A BRIGHT HARVARD EDUCATED PERSON SHOULD BE MORE SOPHISTICATED THAN THAT." Then he walked away and melted into the crowd leaving me pondering the incredible force of his rhetoric.

I looked around, tried to figure out what all these other Harvard people were doing that I somehow was missing out on: did they all have crowns on their heads? Did they wear purple gowns? Did they bow down regularly to those better than them? Did they think life was divided into monarchy and theocracy and nothing else? Oh, I know, those earphones in their ears: Are they listening to a 24-hour radio station that teaches them in the end what sophisticated thinking is? Sadly, I realized, after having paid my tuitition, I was penniless, incapable of purchasing the Los Angeles-made head gear that seems to be a sign of sophistication these days.

Being a pseudo-intellectual takes its toll, and I became tired and sleepy very soon. As soon as I closed my tear-stained eyes (stained by my inability to even grasp what exactly does it mean to think the Harvard way and why did that man keep yelling at me every time I began thinking of Emperor Louis Napoleon Bonaparte), I had a dream again. I was in a stadium full of cheering people. In the middle of the field stood the pilot of my initial dream except this time he was wearing a cowboy suit and playing a strange game of football. Instead of a ball, there was a peacock in the middle of the field who would, understandably, run away every time the cowboy pilot ran towards him.

After another such futile attempt, he suddenly got up, the crowd went silent, and he yelled at me at the top of his lungs: "I SAID GO TO HOWARD UNIVERSITY! NOT HARVARD! SEE WHAT YOU'VE DONE NOW?"

So here I am, without any monarchist views befitting my Harvard education and dreams full of a peacock thrown around in a football field and a man waiting to become a president-king. I shouldve gone to Howard instead.

Comment for The Iranian letters section
Comment for the writer Naghmeh Sohrabi


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