Are we sheep?
Why I won't vote for just any Iranian-American
April 15, 2004
It is difficult to respond to the calls that as Iranian-Americans
it is incumbent upon us to vote with our Iranian side, regardless
of what beliefs we hold as an American member of this community.
The difficulty lies not so much in the strength of that belief
as the way that the Iranian-American community has come to define
itself vis-à-vis both Iran and the US. This stance draws
its strength from the most interesting paradox of the Iranian psyche:
That we are both better than others and that we are victims who
need to assert ourselves on the international stage.
As a result, the response that one does not vote with one's ethnic
(or other kinds of) identity serves little purpose. Jim S. [See:
truth] compared it to choosing a candidate on food
preference and was easily
struck down by Ms. Farhang [See: Foot
in the door].
A more sophisticated argument of this
of course is to compare voting with one's ethnicity with voting
with one's sex. Is having a woman president in the United States
important enough for one to vote for just any woman who runs?
As a citizen who believes in equal rights for women, would I
vote for Phyllis Schafly and more importantly, would I urge other
to do the same?
Should Goli Ameri be asked to vote for Hillary
Clinton, were Hillary to run for president, in the name of
much beleaguered sisterhood? If not, then how is it different
from voting for just any Iranian? Is the Iranian-American community,
with its higher than average economic and educational status
more marginalized in this society than working class women
As strong as these arguments may be, they do not address the
heart of Ms. Farhang's plea to vote for Ms. Ameri regardless of
one's own particular beliefs. The key to her argument lies in
second article [See: Foot
in the door] when she states: "It has been
over twenty six years that the fundamentalists have ruined and
and forced the majority of Iranians to embark on a diaspora."
Ms. Ameri's appeal to a liberal democrat like Ms. Farhang lies
less in her being an American of Iranian origin than in her stance
towards the "fundamentalists" in Iran. So here, the
question becomes would the argument that all Iranian-Americans
should always vote for an Iranian-American regardless of his/her
beliefs still stand if the Iranian-American in question had a
different view towards IRAN and not the US?
Let's suppose instead
Ms. Ameri, an Iranian-American Republican -- who, like Ms.
Ameri believes that gay marriages are illegal, that there should
gains tax and that drug benefits should not be added to Medicare
-- was to run for the US Congress with the small difference that
this Iranian-American had a beard, was devoted to the Islamic
Republic, and believed that the Islamic Republic of Iran was a
that the US should resume contact with. Should all Iranian-Americans
vote for him?
My point here is that Iranian-American identity is too complex
and too diverse to act as a single unifying factor for all those
included within its community. Enough with these calls for forgetting
one's individuality in exchange for some kind of false unity.
Talk of unity is only a way to skirt the real issues and bypass
important stage of persuasion.
Asking the Iranian-American community
to forget its multiple interests and individual ideals, even
for a brief period until we're somehow "included" in
the American process, is simplistic, retrograde, and insulting.
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