a theocracy by a few and ended up in a theocracy by majority
November 7, 2004
Since I opened my eyes and began to learn where the United States of America
were on the bluish globe in our living room, I have associated America with John
F. Kennedy. I even drew a card and sent it to the White House for the birth of
John Kennedy Jr. when I was only 4.
Growing up in a country far from here, I
also knew the US through the actions of a young American, Barkley Moore, who
was a Peace Corps volunteer in a small town close to the Soviet border in Northern
Iran. Despite the rumors I could overhear that he was a spy eavesdropping on
Soviet communications, he was a friend back in the mid 60s when I was not even
I remember going camping with Mr. Moore and other boy scouts from
English school in Golestan's national forests, singing "O' Mc Donald had a farm
iya iya o... ," which was a foreign concept for Iranian kids those days,
nevertheless it was a happy image that I carried with me for decades.
to a high school in Tehran that had a large statue of the American missionary
Dr. Samuel Jordan in its rotunda, and I learned English
from Ms. Huchinson and Mr.
on the sixth floor of
the Iran-America Society in Vessal Avenue.
I grew up as a normal middle-class kid who, in those days, normally would
have ended-up in the West attending some engineering college. But it so
happened that I passed the general university entrance exams and stayed.
in the university cantina while police stood guard in riot gears breathing
down my neck every day.
It was in that environment that I turned out to
be a dissident
under the Shah and later its substitute, the Islamic regime. I finally
left the country after the end of the eight-year Iraq war to be a no-land,
exiled person. I left in search of freedom of thought, escaping a theocratic
regime that was more concerned with people's bedrooms and appearances
We landed in Seattle, in the Northwest corner of the United States
of America and later moved to charming Portland. Subsequently I came
to know the
country and its people from inside a bubble dubbed "little Beirut" and
gradually started to overcome my prejudices about the Great Satan formerly
known as Great Imperialist.
I found friends and built trust in them; old lefties, Latino
farm workers, unionists, young anarchists, Gay and Lesbian activists,
environmentalists, Jewish critics of Israel, Amnesty International
and human rights advocates; the
list goes on and on, and I felt at home. We did not have to burn our
books anymore or submerse them in the bathtub to make paper dough
before tossing them out in
shahrak gharb hills.
I cherished my new life, I was able to say what
I liked and write what I wanted, and I was in no way going to give
up that freedom. I
decided after much internal debate to become a US citizen to put a
stamp on that faith in Western democracy and the US constitution,
and so I did.
The collapse of the Soviet block left the United States to be the
unilateral power of the universe, but Bush the 41st had not yet
succeeded to dictate
his world order. Clinton was the elected president even before I got
to vote as
The 90s era was too good to be true, an almost humble superpower
to collaborate with all, and the US president was received as the
most favorite foreign leader in the rest of the world, a neo-liberal
had a high IQ
and resonated positively with most of the intellectuals around the
drew ourselves into our comfort zone, it was the IT time and Internet
life bubbled, as did blue chips and NASDAQ. Americans once again
were the favorites of the world, everybody envied us, life was
all about "the
That bubble shattered one evening when someone at FOX reversed
the news and called Florida for his cousin. Jeb could not have
been wrong, he promised his state to his re-born Christian
brother, and so it went
in a drama in which Jewish votes supposedly came out for racist
Buchanan. Dragging one's feet did not work and we hailed the thief.
The US left the Kyoto accords,
and the cowboy turned his back on our partners around the world.
9-11 happened and thousands were arrested with no cause. The FBI
infiltrated cultural and religious
assemblies again, the funding of stem cell research was cut, and
federal funds started to pour into churches while schools were
forced to cut their art programs.
Four years and two wars later we convinced ourselves that the
system would correct itself, after all the movement towards modernity
and democracy was a globally
shared value and in our opinion irreversible. In our neck of the
woods we saw grass root movements mobilizing people and supporting
minorities and war-torn
communities. PPRC, the Bus Project, Moveon.org, ACT, Concerts for
Change, the Kucinich campaign folks, all empowered the illusion
that people would take back
On the day of 9/11 I came to know people who were
more concerned about my family and me than they were afraid of
terrorism, and we were let to
believe that indeed we were not and were not going to be alone
in this bubble.
It is conceivable for those who did not have the kind of experience
that we had to think that religious establishments could be contained
separation of church and state. But why did we refuse to accept
that calls from the pulpits could work even in 21st century?
Khomeinis, and Khameneis
of the 6th century ruling twentieth century Iran. Why did we not
understand that the same destiny could be possible in Western civilization
advocates of pre-enlightenment?
May be we resisted the notion that while we were wishing for Lutheran
in Islam, a reverse movement could be taking place in Protestantism.
Anyhow, within our bubble, bumper stickers, lawn signs, and
buttons all called
for a change. I kept saying, YES! These people will take back the
friends would say that they had never seen such a surge of popular
activism, we all
that sanity would prevail, and we were a bunch of happy campers.
That is of course until last Tuesday night when reality shattered
abruptly ended in a nightmare. We all hoped that the rest of Americans,
given what they knew about the lies of WMD, the unprecedented deficit,
the US Patriot
Act, Halliburton and Enron ... , would not actually elect George
Bush for four more years.
But they did. Was it election fraud?
Was it the fulfillment of the promise made by the CEO of Diebold
to "deliver Ohio to the president"?
Oh well! We will never know. As a friend writes: "It makes
me think I am living in a third world country where I can never
know the truth."
I have lived three decades of my life in the
third world, so I know what it means when a bishop puts a full-page
ad in my hometown
Kerry a sin. But I had also developed more faith in the citizens
of the so-called first world. That is now broken apart. The bottom
a theocracy by a few and ended up in a theocracy by majority.
And now I have to read my daughter's
e-mail who is backpacking abroad:
i will no longer be a resident of the united states for the
next four years... this is really hard for me to say and do...
i had a lot of plans for the next
few years... but thanks to the terror-stricken brainwashed americans
of the midwest... my dreams are torn down to rubble... i will have
to leave my home until i agree
with the direction of our country... i refuse to have violence
and selfish monetary gain being done in my name (the american people)...
Goudarz Eghtedari is an engineer, a writer, a radio producer,
and a Human Rights and peace activist who lives in Portland, Oregon.