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Sabbath Day – Iran

September 17, 2015

A very peaceful day. I walked to the library to return and pick up a few books. I had my weekly cup of coffee at Hastings Tea Room while reading outside. And a bowl of the best clam chowder in the city. After school I took my son to the pet store to buy crickets for his gecko and then helped him focus on his homework. We had dinner and spent the evening in the park. Early to bed (but a long time falling asleep).


My focus for reading multi-national literature this week was inspired by the peace agreement reached by the P5 + 1 (U.S., U.K., China, France, Russia plus Germany) with Iran. On my church office shelves I have a copy of Paved With Good Intentions: The American Experience and Iran which Barry Rubin published in 1980 during the hostage crisis (reviewed here by Daniel Pipes.) The book sought to answer the question, at a moment of high political stakes, “what did the U.S. do that so enrages Iranians?” Well, plenty. And since both the U.S. government and the Shah kidded themselves and one another about their true interests, the revolution of ’79 was doomed to be misunderstand, and be misunderstood by, the U.S.

In 2000, Marjane Satrapi published the first volume of Persepolis, an autobiographical graphic novel describing her childhood in Iran up to and including the revolution. In 2002 she published a second volume detailing her studies abroad in Vienna, her return to Iran, and her eventual emigration to France. The books won numerous awards and, in 2007, were turned into a major motion picture (which won a Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival). I have wanted to read this for a long time.


Satrapi has written that since the 1979 revolution, “this old and great civilization has been discussed mostly in connection with fundamentalism, fanaticism, and terrorism. As an Iranian who has lived more than half of my life in Iran, I know that this image is far from the truth… I believe that an entire nation should not be judged by the wrongdoings of a few extremists. I also don’t want those Iranians who lost their lives in prisons defending freedom, who died in the war against Iraq, who suffered under various repressive regimes, or who were forced to leave their families and flee their homeland to be forgotten.”

A good reminder.

And with the ridiculousness of the second Republican Candidate’s debate still echoing across social media platforms, the following is frightening…


Listening – despite trying not to – to the candidates speak about our country prompted me to move Chris Hedges’ American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America to my bedside table. Satrapi’s work is not only a plea for understanding across cultures, but a reminder of how quickly a civilization can be torn apart when fear, and fundamentalism win the day.

I finished my day with “Existence” by Iranian poet Ahmad Shamlou, one of Iran’s greatest modern poets, who died in 2000. 180px-Ahmad_Shamlou

If this is life – how low!

and I, how shamed, if I don’t hang my lifetimes’s lamp

high on the dusty pine of this dead-end lane.

If this is life – how pure!

and I, how stained, if I don’t plant my faith like a mountain,

eternal memorial, to grace this ephemeral earth.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 19, 2015 10:46 am

    Thank you for this great post. I enjoyed reading it. I am also a big fan of Satrapi, being an Iranian myself who migrated to Europe decades ago, I saw my own live when watching Persepolis. Having lived in Iran I always am very much frightened how much Iranians are misunderstood in the west, because the media focuses on extremists and mostly very old photos and scenes. In 2002 I was the last time in Iran and realized how Iranians there have a much better understanding of the west, than the other way round, because they can learn about the west by reading western news in the Internet, similarly they watch western TV (news, movies and music).
    The big challenge is the misunderstanding about Iran in the west, because even if you invest time in going to Iranian pages on the internet, most of them are in Persian and thus not really accessible.
    Hence I have started a blog that has diverse non-political news from Iran. The main idea is to share photos and interesting stories from inside Iran, which show you that indeed Iranian people are very much like American or European people, they are interested in music, arts, sports, …
    Also Iran is very much different than what many people would think, it is not only dry and hot, but also green, there is snow …
    I hope you enjoy this long list of posts, with lots of photos:

    Best regards, Amir

    • September 19, 2015 4:15 pm

      Thank you Amir, both for reading and for sharing. I will certainly spend some time over at your blog. The first several posts were very welcome, particularly the piece about the national climbing team (climbing is something my son and I have taken up together. I shared the photos with him). In peace, Jeff

      • September 19, 2015 4:31 pm

        You are very welcome Jeff. I am happy that you liked the posts. In the next days I plan to bring some music and sports related posts (like soft/baseball), one is also about climbing.

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