Monday, January 08, 2007
Bush's reckless inclusion of Iran in his Axis of Evil speech came at a particularly bad time. The Iranians were assisting our intelligence agencies in Afghanistan (and were quite possibly torturing people for us at an early date in the War on Terror). Soccer stadiums full of Iranians were chanting pro-American slogans after 9/11. Khatami had for years slowly worked against the Supreme Leader and the Council of Twelve to increase civil liberties and press freedoms. Granted, progress was slow or non-existent, but when Bush labeled Iran he gave the conservatives and fanatics a long-sought reason to clamp down and ban progressive candidates. When he invaded Iraq Bush gave Iranians who were open to progressive politicians a reason to vote for hard-liners in huge numbers. Instead of an opportunity to open Iran up with further and deeper co-operation, Bush wrecked a carefully constructed progressive foundation for change.
Now we have Mad Ahmadinejad and the open pursuit of a nuclear bomb by one of the world's oldest and most savvy civilizations. It astonishes me how little Americans know about Iran (and I don't know much), or Persians, especially considering how many Americans think Iran is going to blow up our cities some day (thanks to morons like Glenn Beck).
Persepolis is a good place to start for those with no knowledge of recent Iranian history. The drawings are like wood-cuts, stark black-and-white images that are appropriately evocative of the emotions in the text. The book is surreal in its balance of horror and humor. I can only imagine Marjane Sartrapi's strange childhood: relatives tortured and killed by the Shah, then by the Revolutionary Guard, Iraq attacking Tehran with scuds, hundreds of thousands of war dead, the smuggling of simple pleasures like ABBA tapes and Iron Maiden posters--all of this in the context of a liberal intellectual household whose members thought "It can't happen here" right up until it was too late.