Thursday, June 25, 2009

Looking for Their Martin Luther King Jr.

I thought this was poetic and thought provoking..

Hamid Dabashi wrote in the New York Times;

"If you were to follow youth culture in Iran at the turn of the century — from
the rise of a fascinating underground music (particularly rap) to a globally
celebrated cinema, an astonishing panorama of contemporary art, video
installations, photography, etc. — you would ha
ve noted the oscillation of this
generation between apathy and anger, frustration and hope, disillusion and
euphoria. In their minds and souls, as in their blogs and chat rooms, they were
wired to the globalized world, and yet in their growing bodies and narrowing
social restrictions trapped inside an Islamic version of Calvinist Geneva."

I think there are parallels in the oscillation of Iranian and American youth. I am not Iranian but I have been fascinated by their culture and history for some years now. The youth, in particular, fascinate me living between this beautiful, historic, ancient, Islamic past and the exciting, modern, twittering, Facebooking, new media future. I watch my Iranian-American friends oscillate between their American realities, lifestyles and their Iranian heritage. Between pride of being Iranian and yet living the Western, modern, American lifestyle fully and without regret. And I have watched many, though appreciating the culture their parents teach them, turning away from a country that is not what they know or stand for. Accepting, as their parents seem to, that their country of origin has been lost to fanaticism. But now this "green revolution" has been sparked by the Iranian youth who live the realities of the Iranian political, economic, and social situation in the country. Who also have their Iranian pride. They are standing up for civil rights, and now the Iranian-American youth, who had all but given up on their country of Iran, stand with them as if they had always been in this fight. Dabashi continues;

"I see the moment we are witnessing as a civil rights movement rather than a
push to topple the regime. If Rosa Parks was the American “mother of the civil
rights movement,” the young woman who was killed point blank in the course of a
demonstration, Neda Agha-Soltan, might very well emerge as its Iranian
granddaughter. If I am correct in this reading, we should not expect an imminent
collapse of the regime. These young Iranians are not out in the streets seeking
to topple the regime for they lack any military wherewithal to do so, and they
are alien to any militant ideology that may push them in that direction. It
seems to me that these brave young men and women have picked up their hand-held cameras to shoot those shaky shots, looking in their streets and alleys for
their Martin Luther King. They are well aware of Mir Hossein Moussavi’s flaws,
past and present. But like the color of green, the very figure of Moussavi has
become, it seems to me, a collective construction of their desires for a
peaceful, nonviolent attainment of civil and women’s rights. They are facing an
army of firearms and fanaticism with chanting poetry and waving their green
bandannas. I thought my generation had courage to take up arms against tyranny.
Now I tremble with shame in the face of their bravery."

I think we all sit in shame. Because now I watch Americans, who just 3 weeks ago did nothing about Iran but discuss if war was the right answer. Not thinking about the people, the youth, the ones we are standing for today. Even those of us who knew war was not the answer, did not fight for civil rights in Iran. And now our Facebook pictures are changed to those who are risking our lives, and we are members of groups that make us feel like we are part of the revolution. Make us feel as if we are playing our part. But what are we doing really but taking credit, pretending to risk our lives along side those, like Neda, who did die and are risking their lives, and uprooting their lives to bring change. When has my generation really risked their comfortable lives, their lavish lifestyles, their actual existence for the right cause? Why Iran? Why now? Why did we not stand so bravely when our own election was in question? Why do we not stand in masses, crying and posting daily as the people in Iraq die? Why is the support for the Sudanese, or the Burmese or the Nepalese nothing more than a trend? And what, once the riots and people of Iran quiet or as they are quieted and the excitement of these last few weeks has died down or become stale.. and other headlines hit CNN and the blogosphere.. what then will those who cared so much about freedom and civil rights and Iran.. what will they do next to bring human rights to the world?

To read the full Hamid Dabashi article visit the NYT site here.

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