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An Open Letter to the Iranian People

June 17, 2009

Hi, Iran.

I know you’re kinda cut off from everything that isn’t Twitter right now, but 140 characters just isn’t going to cut it in this case, so here goes.  I’m sure you know there are a bunch of people in my country (point of clarification: America) that, since about 2001 (and since 1979, in some cases), have kinda wanted to blow you off the map.

I’m not one of those people.

Which isn’t to say, though, that I’ve always held your country in the highest regard.  I was 15 when the World Trade Center came down, and my home is only about an hour away from New York City.  My part of the country felt the aftermath pretty strongly.  People I know lost friends.

So I’ll chalk up to youthful ignorance and regional prejudice the fact that yeah, I drank some of the post-9/11 Kool Aid.  When President Bush told us that he had credible information that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, I believed him.  When he told us that Saddam Hussein would only respond to force, I believed that, too.  When he told us that North Korea, Iraq, and your country were part of an “axis of evil”, I sincerely believed that those three countries were – well, evil.  The trappings were all there – charismatic leaders espousing fiery rhetoric, denouncing Western values as their fawning personality cult looked on.  Hitler, anyone?

I’ve grown up since then.  I’ve seen the misery my country brought to the people of Iraq, the same people we so piously wanted to “free”, and I’ve heard the curses uttered by the lips who in 2003 sang at the toppling of Saddam’s statues.  I know you’re not evil, Iran.  But even as the whole world turns its hopeful eyes on you, there are some of my countrymen who still haven’t worked the Kool-Aid from their system.  They eye you with paranoia and fear.  They hate you for your nukes, your religion, and maybe just because they’re used to it.  Their grumbles aren’t loud – but they’re there.

Iran, I need you to know that those people don’t speak for me.  I don’t give a shit about your nuclear program.  I don’t, because when I see the cell-phone videos coming out of your country, I see people I could have eaten lunch across from a year ago in my college cafeteria.  I see flesh and blood and hope and misery, and there’s nothing more humanizing than that.  There’s no going back now to the old way of thinking.  No matter how my country treats yours from now on, we all have to look you in the eye and know that you’re human.

I believe in your cause.  I think you’re right.  But as Howard Zinn once said, the “right” people armed with the “right” ideas don’t always prevail in history.  I hope you win, but I have no idea if you will, and no idea what it will look like if you do.

You’re right, Iran, but that doesn’t guarantee you anything.  But you’re something else too.  You’re strong.  And that counts.

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