Three women and one man told me truths that perfectly sum up why we Americans do not get Iran. One woman was my precious wife, Mariam. When I first started dating my precious Mariam she told me one thing I will never forget – “What you see on TV is not Iran”! I went in search of Mariam’s Iran. I can say that, after 15 years, over 50 different books and, over the last 14 months of spending five to ten hours a day reading about Iran, I found her Iran. Mariam was absolutely correct - What I see on TV is not Iran.
As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, Barbara Slavin spoke a truth I wish would resonate in the hallways in Washington DC. After being introduced as an expert on Iran at some panel discussion on Iran, she said – “There are no experts on Iran, there are only students”. Barbara was absolutely correct. There are no experts on Iran, just students. As I mention in an earlier post, my politicians pay attention to the grade school students and leave the college students in the dust because the grade schoolers push a lot of greenbacks into the politician’s pockets. There are a lot of rich grade school students.
As a student of Iran, I was explaining the political situation in Iran to my sister Susan. I was trying to explain how the government was composed of multiple warring factions that vie for power. How the government officials spend as much time debating the intimacies of government structure as they do the issues. And how these officials are hellbent on winning at all cost with little regard to the bigger picture. My sister said – “So you mean it is just like our government?”. It took about a minute, but I realized she was absolutely correct.
In this website and in my poor attempts at various videos I tried as best I can to explain the “Iran” my wife and my research had revealed. I tried to tell the other story. Paul Pillar explained to me why this is so hard. When I read a book, I put post-it notes on the pages that have important messages. Paul’s “Why America Misunderstands the World” has a post-it note on every page. His book was not about Iran but how, after 30 years in the CIA and State Department, he found we Americans just do not get it. We have been isolated from the rest of the world and, as a result, our world knowledge is zilch. We have grown up to believe we are the best. We have the best government, we have the best religion and we have the best of everything. Given this, we KNOW best. We know how the rest of the world should work. We know the best form of government! We know who should lead other countries. In short, Americans believe we have a corner on the market in world smarts. Paul is absolutely correct, we do not get the rest of the world. What is worse is that we do not know it.
I will give you one example. Americans believe Iran is run by religious fanatics? In 2001, Ayatollah Khamenei declared that stem cell research was consistent with Islam. A year earlier, George Bush signed a ban on this research because it did not align with his Christian moral beliefs. That research may help people with Parkinson’s. It is too bad sanctions precluded Iran’s research from flourishing. It might have helped my precious Mariam. Based upon this alone, Khamenei would have my vote over Bush (fyi, Bush’s father now has Parkinson – Karma). Look at American politicians who believe the earth is 6,000 years old and that believe you can pray “gay” away. Religious fanaticism is in the eyes of the beholder. As Paul will tell you – our fanaticism is better than “their” fanaticism.
Mariam, Barbara, Susan and Paul all get it. I just wish I had a way to tell people about Iran. I have come to realize that, in the words of one comedian who’s name I do not remember, “I cannot fix stupid!”.