Wednesday, April 13, 2005


Yesterday, a group of students from Gaza came to speak at SF State University. When a student said that he has had to dress as a woman in order to cross the checkpoints on his way to school, or on his way back to visit family, some people in the audience laughed. I was bewildered by this response. Were they laughing because the situation was so un-imaginable to them, or was the thought of "dressing as a woman" funny? I wonder what makes certain things funny for some, when it costs others their lives, be it in passing a checkpoint in Palestine, or passing as a woman in Newark, California.

This is a very interesting article by Ross Pourzal. Pourzal, whose article was posted on Iranian.com today, makes an excellent point when he writes,"I yearn for a day when 'dissident' will describe Iranians who not only resist Iran's rulers, but also dare to re-examine elitist definitions of 'civilization' and other received wisdom." His statement really speaks to me. Why in the world, would an anti-war event want to have someone who works in a conservative think tank to come and talk about "Iran's Contribution to Civilization"? Can we, perhaps, stop for a moment and question what it means to keep referring to a glorified past in our anti-war efforts? How hard are we going to try and fit within the racist narratives of "civilization?" Is this some way of saying, "don't bomb us... we are civilized"? The talks about the "evolution of our common human heritage" seem to demand a historical amnesia about who got screwed (excuse my language) in this evolutionary narrative of progress.

Am I grumpy today? Maybe I am.

Last night I took my class to listen to Dahr Jamail's talk at SFSU. I have been reading Jamail's reports on Electronic Iraq and his talk about the U.S. military and its violent behavior wasn't surprising to me. Most of my students were not surprised either, but found the images quite moving. I wish he would give this talk in parts of the U.S. where he needs to be heard. But again, SF may be a safer place for him than a lot of other parts of this country. The footage Jamail showed was made by a filmmaker, whose film was stolen mysteriously. According to Jamail, the filmmaker was harassed and threatened by the person who has stolen the footage. Jamail's remarks on this issue implied that the thief has connections to the surveillance apparatus in the U.S.

One last thing: David had asked me to write about the kind of future I envision for Iran. This is a valid question, as I have been critiquing the programs for the "future of Iran," which are being decided in conservative think tanks and in the U.S. congress. This is also a very utopian question and demands a utopian answer. I have a lot of wishes, not just for Iran, but also for the U.S. I am surprised why we don't have programs to decide the "future of the U.S." I am not sure if we assume that we have reached the "perfect" world here in the U.S., or that these futuristic programs that envision "perfectability" have a political history that is not separate from neo-liberal policies we witness today. I tend to think that the latter is true.

But for the sake of indulging myself and David, here is my wish list for Iran: Like many people, I wish there would be no poverty, no gender discrimination, no jails and no repressive state, no discrimination based on one's national or ethnic belonging, no discrimination based on one's religion, no discrimination based on one's sexuality, and the list goes on and on (amazingly, these are also my wishes for the U.S.!) But, I also know that Iran doesn't exist in a vacuum and for all these to happen, a lot needs to happen in the world. I also know that the U.S. intervention in any form will not make any of these visions come true. In fact, a lot of the existing issues in Iran cannot be separated from the role of the U.S. in the region. So, Uncle Sam ain't my gene in a bottle! Speaking of bottles, letter N. has a wonderful story about her grandma and her bottles during the revolution in Iran.

And finally, a happy ending: I have learned how to make kabaab koobideh and it does not come off the skewer! Hey, I am climbing the ladder of progress! Watch out McDonald's... McSima's is taking over. If grad school doesn't work out, I know I have a future in the land of the free, where there is "equal" opportunity in kabaab business. Except that McDonald's has bought all the "Mc" titles and claims it as its trademark! A few years ago, my favorite Sushi place in the Mission (in SF) could not choose the name McSushi, because McDonald's threatened to take them to the court! Maybe McDonald's will buy me if they learn about how much potential I have... And who knows, maybe in a few years, McHoover would buy me if I change the way I write... Hmm...

I better stop before I become too vulgar!


The sidebar image is taken from Mahmoud Pakzad's "Old Tehran", Did Publishers, 1994. Thanks to Jahanshah Javid (www.iranian.com) for sharing it.

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