11/23/2014 by syrbal-labrys
I spent yesterday in Portland, Oregon. We drove down to have dinner with my eldest son’s Beloved’s parents. First we met an online friend and wonderful soapmaker I’d known for a while, but never met in the flesh. There is a delightful sensuality about sitting in a coffee shop in a Powell’s Bookstore, watching beautiful young Portlanders wander past on a rainy November afternoon!
Then we went to join A. and F. (F. is the Beloved’s step-father), and meet F’s sister-in-law who was visiting from their home country Iran. Yes, that Iran, the renegade nation Iran. The Iran that produced the immigrant couple who ran my children’s daycare center when I first moved here to Washington State and went back to college for a while. That delightful pair who seemed like grandparents to every child in their care, but who lowered their heads and tried not to discuss their origin country. Imagine being so ashamed or afraid to confess to your national origin? (Oh, wait…the Bush years wherein I took an anti-depressant just to get up in the morning and read the news, like that?? The years I was happy to be mistaken for a Canadian?!)
The women, the Manchild’s Beloved, her mother, and the sister-in-law were packing for her return flight to Iran. She had SIX suitcases to pay for on the return trip. She embraced me and thanked me for my gift of beeswax candles, but looked despairing about where to pack them. For coming to America, as an Iranian, is very very complicated.
First, her brother-in-law host has to provide three to five years of tax returns to the Iranian government, to prove he will not leave his guest/relative indigent upon the American streets. It took a year of planning for her visit to happen! And she could only bring limited funds with her and her remaining assets were frozen to ensure her return. And then, every friend and co-worker in Iran had a list that would have made Santa turn pale: “Please, just bring me this thing from America, just this thing!”
For of course, as a sanctioned nation, those things are not available there. And there is no mailing them there, no UPS, no DHL, no FedEx for ordering them. Even the surgeons she works for as a nurse futilely begged, “Can you bring this piece for a hip replacement?” But no, the government and such HERE do not allow her to take a piece of metal to repair an old woman’s hip and free her from a crippling that will likely end her life prematurely. Because hey, Iranians, suffer for what your government does, by Gawd!
So we packed suitcases full of vitamins, and small IKEA kitchen utensils, and clothing, and purses, and a Christmas ornament that will be proof of miracle if it arrives glassily intact. Because we label Iran a ‘rogue’ and a ‘renegade’ nation and punish the people of Iran for what the leaders do. Cause THAT bit of inhumanity to our fellow humans makes sense. Do we really believe they will rise up and throw off their government so they can get LED lightbulbs and prenatal vitamins?
America? You should think about what YOUR government is doing. What if YOU were enduring sanctions that kept you from not only basics like some sources of food, but from medicine, from technology, from books and a whole host of other items? WE Americans often disapprove of what our government does, and so do whole segments of the rest of the world. Only our position of economic and military power prevent angry fellow citizens of the world from sanctioning US; if you believe otherwise you are buying into that horrid exceptionalism that says it is ok for us to be as we are, no matter how beastly. The government of Iran doesn’t CARE what we want to tell it to do; like it or not — it is a sovereign nation and not a territory of the USA. Don’t you think it just a wee bit hubristic of America to tell a whole nation of 80 million people, “Yes, you may suffer till you tell your government to do as WE prefer.”
After all, America’s star is dimming. We’ve war-spent our nation almost into the poor house. Those job-creating 1%-ers are taking their golden balls and making jobs in other nations. And trust me, the shit rolls downhill. A few decades on, someone whose star is rising (like China)may well tell us, “Hey, you ugly Americans, tell that corrupt, venal, assholean government of yours to knock it the fuck off, or YOU will suffer when we name YOU a rogue nation.”
I know, I know…my inner Kantian is, as ever, in the driver’s seat today. But now, it is time to work and cook. It is Wayland’s Day here….a mythic smith we celebrate as a reminder to attend to the forging of our lives. I am grateful this day to have spent the day before eating Persian food and considering what being American means — both for good and for ill.
And before anyone tears my head off for not being patriotic (oh, and kiss my ass when you try that, ok?) — WE Americans set Iran on the road to rogue. In 1953, the year of my birth, they were on the path to democracy. They elected a prime minister who was happy to see the 20th century, but he was too “pinko” and the ugliest of Americans, the CIA, saw to it he fell fatally down. WE put the autocratic Shah on his throne. HIS abuses of his people DID lead to a popular uprising to be rid of him. All you non-pagan patriots might consider an old pagan saying, “Be careful what you ask for.”
But you don’t produce popular revolutions by inducing suffering from OUTside the country. Most Iranians don’t hate Americans (in spite of media coverage of people paid to scream in front of cameras), but they DO hate the government that sanctions their very lives. As long as their own government is semi-responsive to the needs of the populace, it will stand. Which makes me ask — just how responsive is YOUR government to your needs, eh? One could imagine it looks a bit “revolting” in that light…