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US vs. Them: The Larger Truth September 11, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — shuka @ 5:48 pm

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I don’t know what happened. I wasn’t there. I could try to explain what I think happened or what I’d like you to think happened, but each word will be a mere reflection of my own beliefs.

Iran sparked international interest when it detained a British military ship in the Persian Gulf. President Ahmadinejad swears the boat was in Iranian waters, based on the global positioning system. British Prime Minister Tony Blair assures that the boat was in Iraqi waters, based on the same positioning system. These are the facts.

But facts and words do not always meet. I was in Iran during the Iran/Britain fiasco. I read the Iranian newspapers, and I read the U.S. and British papers. I never read the facts. President Bush agrees with Blair. “Iran must give back the hostages,” USA Today reports Bush saying. “They’re innocent, they did nothing wrong, and they were summarily plucked out of waters.” Niall Ferguson of the LA Times agrees with Bush. “There is no serious doubt in my mind,” he wrote, “that the British sailors taken prisoner on March 23 were in Iraqi rather than Iranian waters.”

When Ejo wrote, “One word of explanation already misses the mark,” he was talking about the Spirit, of the impossibility of explaining that sense of awareness that occasionally and gracefully sneaks up into human consciousness. But the same maxim applies to today’s media, because each word I read was a game of smoke and mirrors, and none got even close to the mark.

Iranian newspapers are completely biased. The government thoroughly “checks over” all articles before a single word goes to print. It is a stated fact that papers must be regime-friendly or they will be shut down. When an Iranian picks up the paper to read the news, she knows this. She could be a bleeding-heart liberal or a fervent Hezbollah follower — but she knows this: the government is mediating the papers. That is a fact.

Ours is another story, and a much more complicated one. In the U.S. we have Freedom. The very idea brings forth celestial images of doves flying through beams of yellow light. Just saying the word freedom aloud seems strangely cathartic. Only problem is that freedom does not entail truth. The U.S. media is free, yes. We are free to give favors, free to look the other way as we receive favors and free to be owned by multi-million dollar corporations with strong political views and missions of making money.

I was reading Fox News (yes, they write too) and was intrigued by the repetitive use of the word “hostage” (the Iranian papers and many U.S. papers preferred the word “captives”). In fact, Fox News even used the phrase, “Iranian Hostage Crisis,” which is the same exact words used in 1979 when militant university students in Iran took 63 embassy staffers hostage. Now, Catherine Herridge, the Homeland Security Correspondent for Fox News, reports a reintroduced witness who claims she saw President Ahmadinejad at the 1979 coup. Conveniently, linking the two events will allow historians to save much ink: both can be bunched under “The Iranian Hostage Crisis” — Wikipedia doesn’t even need to add a new section to their archive!

What I see is smoke and mirrors. I see words that give nothing but a reflection of the writer (or whoever is paying the writer’s bills). As an Iranian-American, I try to see both sides at once, and examine the issues from every angle. The same results come up each time: two parallel lines that can go on infinitely but never touch. The printed words, rather than elucidate, disappoint. In the end, all I can say is, “I don’t know what happened. I wasn’t there,” and hope that people see the importance behind those words.

Published May 2007 common-ground-logo.gif

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