Sabbath Day – Iran
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.
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.