Then and now

Let Hollywood and Nintendo fight our war. We have a better chance of winning that way.


Then and now
by Setareh Sabety

It has been six years since the 9/11 attacks. I remember that day. It is one of those days that are stamped with a slow motion real-time narrative in our minds. Here is my retelling.

I was living in Middletown Maryland. A horribly boring, surprisingly homogenous, suburban community near Frederick which, I learned after we bought the house, was called Fredneck by those who lived in or nearer Washington, D.C.

Suffice it to say that we were, it seemed, the darkest, weirdest people living in Middletown even though DC was only two hours away. In the U.S. the distances you travel in miles from one community to the next does not necessarily correspond to the one you travel in thought. Urban and rural populations live amazingly side by side in a state of perpetual hostility.

Many parents had rushed to our elementary school and picked up their kids. When I got there, an hour or so earlier than the normal dismissal time, my kids were amongst a small handful that were still there. I did ponder going to pick up the kids but then decided against it calculating that a terrorist attack plan of that scale would not pick Middletown Elementary as a target.

I first heard of the news in the little diner in our town. I don’t remember its name but I went there a few times a week and read and took notes with a cup of coffee pretending that I didn’t mind that it was not a café in Paris.

I loved their greasy American breakfast (a weapon of mass destruction in itself) that you cannot find on the continent. The people in the diner were locals and never really said more than a ‘hi’ to me or to each other really. They were a pissed off angry bunch, living in the shadows of the Starbucks that were opening everywhere, holding fast to the tradition of greasy food and bad coffee like it was their last remaining birthright.

There was always a sense of doom in that diner that was as old as the Civil War and as fresh as the loss of farms to housing developers. No one seemed to be too upset about some wacks attacking the Pentagon and even less so New York. For those people who first heard the news of the attacks with me in that diner New York was as far away and as irrelevant as Beirut. Not many in that diner liked the government in DC. They never bought the new President’s drawl and I am sure they considered New York as belonging to the Jews.

The radio was on as usual as I walked in the diner. I sat at the counter. Only the waitress behind the bar said hello before taking my order. I ordered my coffee. Then I heard her say, to her co-worker, a fat man who worked the grill, in that bored drawl of middle-aged women from the South, “they hit the Pentagon too.” No one had stopped eating or doing whatever they were doing.

They were so calm and collected you would have thought this was happening not in New York but in Timbuktu. So I asked the waitress what was going on. She told me about the Twin Towers and the Pentagon being hit in the exact same tone she used when asking how I wanted my coffee. I drank my coffee in a big gulp, paid and left the diner where people were still calmly eating.

I rushed home listening to the radio in the car. I turned on CNN and watched the towers fall that graceful fall we all remember. Then after having decided that it was silly to get the kids from school I sat down and wrote.

Much has happened in the world since then. For one the terrorists seem to be winning the war on terror. They are more prominent, more popular and more active than before. They now have a new base in Iraq and “the liberation” of Afghanistan and Iraq is nothing but a joke. Iran was the only victor in the war with Iraq. The U.S. did such a bad job of occupying Iraq that anyone, like Ahmadinejad, who resists her in the region is deemed a hero.

The Americans learned the hard way that it was much more difficult to bomb an ideology or a belief system than cities, towns and villages. The U.S. and her allies found out that unlike Saddam Hussein, fundamentalist Islam cannot be chased out of its entrenchment with guns. Eschatological Islam in fact feeds on its own sense of doom. It is so much easier to sell suicide bombing careers to kids whose towns and neighborhoods are being attacked every day than those who live in peaceful communities.

They wanted to be attacked and we played their game and we were wrong. In fact I now believe that if we let them be and rule their people the way they want sooner or later they will fall. Because they are not administrators and managers, they are revolutionaries and guerrilla fighters. Put them behind a desk and their own heads will eventually roll just like that of Robespierre the original terrorist and revolutionary more than two hundred years ago. Take away a revolutionary’s revolution give him the job of running the government and his own people and comrades will eventually turn against him because he cannot deliver any better than those he overthrew.

And in the West people come and go talking of the disappearance of a single toddler in Portugal some hundred days ago (to paraphrase one of my favorite poems by T.S.Elliot.). It always amazes me the moral relativism that marks the media coverage of tragedies. Hundreds die every day in Iraq but one lost English toddler gets more sympathy. We can only mourn those we name. In fact this very difference about how we approach death is why the war is being lost. The loss of life means more to our sensitive post Freudian selves than it does to the enemy so it only makes sense to face them not in the arena of war but that of the global market. Sell them jeans and mtv and watch western cultural hegemony work its magic.

Let Hollywood and Nintendo fight our war. We have a better chance of winning that way. One look at the YouTube video of a break-dance battle in Qom will show that satellite television and the internet are the choice weapons to use in fighting the Islamists. Let their youth break-dance their way out of fundamentalist hell.


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by SHO'UREH SHOMAAST (not verified) on

Salaam bar hameye azizan,

I'm glad that Aghayeh Javid's revisions to this website have been making it easier for us all to communicate but I hope it doesn't come at the expense of not being as careful in choosing our words to express ourselves.

Although I don't agree with Miss Sabety's understanding of current events and their significance, and I am disappointed that she identifies with being American more than being Iranian, I wouldn't slander her because her view or chosen identity.

I think it is important that we all place higher value on our words and categorizations. Islam has nothing to do with what I take to be Miss Sabety's understanding that Iran's regime is against 'modernity' epitomized by kids breakdancing. Please don't demean a beautiful faith more than it already has been by a regime that has perverted through forced institutionalization and completely taken it out of its original context. Mullahs are NOT Islam and Islam is not Mullahs.

There is nothing Islamic about them other than the utterly superficial symbols such as their garb and Arabic words that they use to give the facade that they have what is essentially Islamic: respect, tolerance, egalitarianism, belief in humanity.

I am a young man who was born and raised in the United States. I am of Iranian decent. I am a Muslim.

I would appreciate it if the older generation would not criticize me for my beliefs and instead of feigning some hereditary superiority with their "Persian culture" that they shove down everyone's throat actually show some of it in practice.

As I am writing this I feel that I should apologize because I know those true to the spirit of "Persian culture" need not even be told this but its the few who scream the loudest and misrepresent it that ruin everyone's reputation...I'm referring to those who constantly mock Haji Agha for his beliefs on here and curse Islam and whatever else they think they don't agree with every chance they get.

Just as purported "Islamic terrorists" ruin Islam's name in the world through mass media's agenda against it to find a new scape goat for this century, do these people ruin Iranian's names amongst ourselves.

Mokhlese hamegi,



Then and now

by Farhang Abrishami Mubarraka (not verified) on

Madam Sabety,
You got it all wrong. Had Bush left Saddam alone he would have gone by now. The Arabs should be left to their own. And as far as the Islamic suicide bombers are concerned most of them were from relatively well off families and not from the slums.
And as far as Iran is concerned the States should start making a few sorties and break the sound barrier over Tehran shattering a few glass windows, and you will see these blood sucking mullahs hide themselves in the sewers where they should stay.
The blood sucker of the century Khomieni when faced with possible disaster drank a goblet of cow urine to save his regime.
So Bush and the West should tighten the screws on this evil regime. A regime which is waiting for some joker to squirrel his way up from a well in Jakkaron near Qom to save mankind.


Then and Now

by Anonymous on

I wonder that in your mind, do you ever make a distinction between people and their stupid and dangerous rulers? Who is "their" alluding to? Where are you from "Setareh Khanom Sabeti"? Last time I checked that name is Iranian. THEY infact is US...
Instead of distancing ourselves, we'd better think and speak kindly of the PEOPLE of Iran. Whatever you want to say about the fundamentalist, and mullahs, etc, is your business and I personally agree. But lets not forget, WE are Iranian. And Do not forget that THEY (mullahs) were not behind the 9/11. Al-Qaida was. Mullahs are more calculating and measured...
So lets not say things that are not true and down right dangerous for Iranian people.


Bitching Bitching Bitching ....

by Abgousht on

Have you considered meeting Hajiagha? He hates Canada as much as you hate America. You too would make a nice couple!? He is into kinky stuff though!?