Double Vision

Seeing Through Iranian-American Eyes

SusannePari
Jun 21, 2013 · 3 min read

I’m not celebrating the election of the new ‘moderate’ president in Iran. I’m not even ‘cautiously optimistic,’ which has become a familiar phrase among pundits. I’ve been burned too often, not only as a person of Iranian heritage, but as an American voter. Politicians will always disappoint us, perhaps because they’re human, but also because we place too much faith in them. Put people on a pedestal, and the only way they can go is down.

First of all, I don’t like it that President-Elect Rohani wears a turban. I wouldn’t like it if a US president wore a minister’s collar either.

Second, I know that Rohani doesn’t have a lot of power; the Guardian Council is above him and they like making everyone live in the Stone Age. It’s like Obama versus the Republicans in Congress. While we’re all (Iranians and Americans) begging them to do something about the economy, they’re drumming up more restrictions on women’s rights, marriage, and religious education.

I see the world in double vision—as an American and as an Iranian at the same time. I’ve been hyphenated since the day I was born in New Jersey to an American mother and Iranian father. My first visit to Tehran was when I was six months old, and that continued regularly until I was twenty-one, when the Shah was exchanged for Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979. As an Iranian, I was downgraded to a second-class citizen (female). As an American, I sued the Iranian government for confiscated property. As an Iranian, I was incensed at the stupidity of the Carter Administration for allowing a dying Shah to come to New York for medical treatment while Iran was calling for his extradition, and I was incensed again, as an American, when our Embassy personnel in Tehran were taken hostage in retaliation.

Double vision. But as we know, the brain adapts. Sometimes, it turns what at first seems like a disability (I hated being half-and-half) into an asset: in this case a keener sense of the situation. (e.g.: Being a child-nerd is wack; being an adult-nerd is cool.)

Many of you weren’t even born when the Iran Hostage Crisis happened. You may know about it because of the film ‘Argo,’ which wasn’t very accurate, though it had a rockin’ Chaplinesque ending. If it made people a little more aware of an important part of modern history, I’m satisfied. But if it gave people the idea that it was the whole story, or worse, that the story is over, I’m sad and fearful. And I’m fully aware that if you’re reading this short column, you’re one of the people who already knows that what happens in and to Iran effects Americans directly—as directly as poison in the water system or the discovery of a cure for cancer. But you can share it, thanks to Medium, and perhaps encourage a civil exchange of ideas and information. You’ll have to monitor the civility from those who have black-and-white opinions, people I call Binary Boors.

In Iranian President-Elect Rohani’s first press conference on Monday, NBC reporter Ali Arouzi asked him point-blank if he would engage in direct dialogue with the United States. “This is a very old wound,” he said. “Wisdom tells us both countries need to think more about the future and find solutions to past issues.” Damn straight. We’re like the Hatfields and McCoys. I know, I know: experts and academics prefer more high-brow comparisons and complex political analysis, but the truth is, until ordinary people from both nations can relate to this 34-year-old crisis of Iran-US Relations in its fundamental form—as a messy divorce and custody battle between a once-very-happy couple—there are going to be more lost opportunities and, yes, more wars. And no one has been winning any wars lately.

Us and Them

Foreign Stuff that Matters to Americans

Us and Them

Foreign Stuff that Matters to Americans

SusannePari

Written by

Novelist first. Sometime book reviewer, essayist, speaker, interviewer.

Us and Them

Foreign Stuff that Matters to Americans