Sunday, June 28, 2009

Proportion: Iran and The Death of Michael Jackson.

The world is really topsy turvy to me right now. Michael Jackson's death is bigger news than what is happening in Iran.

There is plenty being written on Jackson's life (which I've believed was sad and lonely even when he was a child performer) and death -- by all kinds of folks who want to dig at the nut of 'what does it all mean now?' and that's not for me to figure out. I enjoyed his music and his huge talent and that will be missed. In some ways I think perhaps his death was actually a mercy to him, however premature.

But Iran is something for me to try to figure out since I like to think of myself as both an American and a citizen of the world. I was 25, fresh out of the Air Force and in my first semester of college when the 1979 revolution and Hostage Crisis in which American embassy personnel were taken on November 24th and held for 444 days. The hardliner Khomeni took power and we westerners started learning how little we really understood about American and British foreign policy in the Middle East not to mention the meddling we did to preserve our access to Iran's oil resources.

Some of my acquaintances at college were students from Iran and I remember them being scared of American backlash. They weren't at fault and didn't support the revolution or Khomeni's regime, but there was always some jerk willing to stop by their table at the Frontier restaurant were more than happy to demonstrate their own ignorance, bias and racism on a near daily basis with some vile spew.

It was embarrassing that my own country men and women were capable of such foolishness but it certainly was not surprising given the levels of racism against minorities that had existed here for so long. I suspected at the time that for Iran repression was going to become the norm and I sure didn't wish that on anyone. But for all of that, I was pretty ignorant myself. Really. All I knew about Iran was that it was a bit about the regional antiquarian art from back when it was the Persian empire, that it gave birth to Omar Khayam and his beautiful poetry, notably The Rubyiat, and that Islam was the dominant religion. The rest of what I knew was the usual stuff a kid learns when they study geography - languages spoken in the country, where the major cities were, general info on agriculture and other resources. I'm not a world traveller... I've always been a bit too poor for that kind of life, yet the rest of the world still matters to me.

So 'lo many years pass and Iran stays in the news, especially when there are new elections. In the mean time, there were semi-regular news stories about how repressive the government had become so when news of an election with the more moderate Mousavi was on the slate, I joined the many who hoped that -- if the election was fair -- it might lead to more freedoms for the Iranian people. Now we know different. The election was stolen on a scale that beggared either of Bush's stolen elections. Once the protests started in the streets, pro-Ahmadinejad supporters turned into thugs wielding truncheons, pipes and more against their countrymen and women. I think if the number of votes exeeded the number of elegible voters on the scale it did in Iran, I'd be out protesting in our streets too! Talk about insulting people's intelligence!

Some of the higher clerics are even saying that people who participated in the protests should be executed. And that should concern us -- it should concern people of goodwill everywhere. The bread and circuses of a celebrity's death does little to shape the world yet does much to divert our attention from larger things. What happens in places like Iran are much more important in the long run. I support a free Iran.

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