Friday, March 10, 2006

whether i love it or hate it, you shut up

some of you have been asking me to pen entries on topics of interest, such as the political climate here or the perception that iranians have of americans. i beg your patience, as i slowly and carefully gather details with which to present as fair and full a picture as I can. in the meantime, i have gotten a good sense of the people’s relationship to their own situation and i trust you’ll find it fascinating.

bear in mind, that a lot of the input i receive is from my family, but with my nascent work relationships, the sphere is expanding and i’m finding echoes of the same issues throughout. maybe it’s a culture thing, or a coping thing, but the only way to describe how an iranian feels about iran is love-hate. let’s start with the hate.

life in iran is not easy, by any means. you constantly have to scramble just to eek out a meager existence, all the while having your freedom and sensibilities under siege by a forceful and oppressive (to put it mildly) regime. years of struggle in such an environment have hardened most people, and despair seems to be the prevailing sentiment on the future of the country. everyone is out for themselves in a way that would put american individualists to shame, money is below even the bottom line, and you never know which of a person’s many faces you’re dealing with. inevitably something will go wrong, and when it does you always hear “it’s iran, what do you expect?" to be fair, there are some individuals who believe that with time and persistence, things will change. for eight years, under khatami’s rule, small victories were won and it seemed like something might finally give. but with the new regime and new rhetoric, the future has never been so uncertain. even those who work for change are being stifled with a zeal reminiscent of the early days of the regime. so to recap: freedom is minimal, opportunity even more scarce, and life generally sucks. iran? HATE IT.

simultaneous to the above: iranians love iran. no, i’m serious, they really do. there is a certain culture, a common history, that binds the people together in a way you would never see in the states. you can relate to just about anyone who passes you on the street and wherever you go, you have 3,000 years of a glorious history following behind you. everyone talks to one another like friends, and living life is the most important thing. you go to work at 8 in the morning, get a break from 12-4 (when you eat the most delicious food and nap alongside your loving family), and return to your easy-going job for just a few more hours before calling it a day. when friends and family gather, laughter punctuates the conversation and in a matter of minutes half the crowd is up and dancing. the food is plentiful, the warmth is palpable, and there’s a unique enthusiasm about every experience. the women are beautiful, the men are hard-working and no nation in the world can ever be compared. iran? LOVE IT.

now don’t get confused, because it’s not confusing. it’s just the way things are. iranians hate iran and love iran, hate their fellow iranians and love their fellow iranians, would rather escape to any corner of the world but only feel at home on iranian soil. does it seem like a bi-polar disorder? it probably is. but you better watch yourself. bad-mouth iran to an iranian and she’ll stare you down with her laser eyes til you’re a whimpering puddle of your former self. because no matter how an iranian feels about her country or her people, no matter how much she complains and condemns it, in her heart of hearts there’s an inexplicable love, so it’s best you just shut up about it.

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