Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Why Does Iran Arouse So Much Hostility?

We're scared . . . of this?
[This post dates from the period in early 2012 when there was much talk of a U.S. attack on Iran. Eighteen months later it is as relevant as ever. See IRAN: 3 Reality Checks on the Emerging U.S. Narrative.]

If we are going to stave off a U.S. war against Iran, we are going to have to have some very difficult conversations with other Americans. Some people are extremely hostile. It's confusing and a bit frightening, but we're going to have to confront it.

Hostility Against Iran

When we protested U.S. war moves against Iran in Chicago on February 4, I felt an unusually high level of hostility from some people. Of course, we found the usual number of people who just didn't want to face what we were talking about. But other people were outright hostile. For instance, how can someone respond to, "Excuse me, would you like to take a quiz about Iran?" by saying, "GO F**K YOURSELF!" ??

Similarly, the image of a very irate SUV driver shaking his fist at the demonstrators and shouting at us, even as he sped up Dearborn, is hard to shake.

And then there was the middle-aged man who sputtered in incredulity as he watched us marching against the idea of war: "This is unbeLIEVable! What the -- ? How can you -- ?

I noticed the report from Hawaii about the February 4 protest there described similar reactions: "[A] shocking number of people (mainly older men) responded with comments like: "kill 'em all," "they're going to nuke us...are you crazy?," "bomb 'em" and worse."
A Tool of Permawar

(I wonder if people elsewhere have encountered the same level of hostility? Comments please ....)

Prejudice: A Tool of Permawar

What happens in the popular culture in countries that are getting ready for war?

I've been reading a new book about the Japanese war against China a hundred years ago (The Sino-Japanese War and the Birth of Japanese Nationalism, by Saya Makito). It's amazing to me how some things never change: in Japan in the 1890s -- as in the U.S. today -- the public support for war against China was fed by all kinds of expressions of disdain and prejudice against the "culturally inferior" and "backward" Chinese.

Today, islamophobia and other forms of cultural prejudice against people in Iran is a handy tool for getting Americans to support yet another in the endless series of American wars: "permawar".

See A Force for Peace:
Getting to Know Iran Through Film
A first step in resisting "permawar" is to reject prejudice against people from other countries and cultures. Maybe when we look honestly at ourselves, instead of spending all our time finding fault with others, we will start to realize that we have many areas of similarity with the people we have been demonizing.

I can't think of a better way for people to push back against existing prejudices of Iran than to go see, think about, and discuss the current movie, A Separation. I have very little doubt it will win the Oscar for best foreign film. That provides an excellent opportunity for us to have a serious national conversation about the simple fact that Iranian people are people, too; they live lives strikingly similar to our own; and it is time to get rid of our ugly prejudices.

The Nuclear Paradox

I think the ultimate American hypocrisy lies in its nuclear stance. Consider this logic:

* Iran doesn't have nuclear weapons, and has not been proved to be working to obtain nuclear weapons, but may harbor a desire to have nuclear weapons.

See "The Bankruptcy of U.S. Nuclear Doctrine"
* Nuclear weapons exist because the U.S. invented them.

* Nuclear weapons are abundant because the U.S. has produced large numbers of them.

* Most people in the world despair of ever getting rid of the threat of nuclear weapons because the countries that have nuclear weapons -- led by the U.S. -- are not moving convincingly to get rid of them.

* The world knows the awful consequence of nuclear weapons because the U.S. has used them to injure civilian populations.

* ALL OF THE ABOVE NOTWITHSTANDING ... if Iran does, in fact, harbor a desire to have nuclear weapons, it makes THEM despicable and worthy of being attacked by the U.S.

When did Americans become so illogical?

Conversations Needed
See #NoIranWar

Are Americans capable of confronting their own illogic? What we need now are conversations -- a lot of them. (Do we still have time?)

For more on this and related issues, see my blog post on seven big reasons people should be VERY wary of any and all statements about how Iran is "asking for it".

Related posts

I often refer to how important the films of Iran have been in helping me open my mind to the possibilities of a peaceful relationship with that country.  I have been fortunate to be able to go see some of the best films from Iran every year at the wonderful Siskel Film Center in downtown Chicago. The will be another Festival of Films From Iran showing there in February, 2014.

(See A Force for Peace: Getting to Know Iran Through Film)

As the Obama administration prepares in the days ahead to pivot from its focus on Syria to something truly startling -- talking to Iran! -- it is important that the American public devotes some time and energy to learning and thinking about Iran, the history of the U.S.-Iran relationship, and what the U.S.-Iran relationship means in the larger context of the effort to reduce the risk of war and violence in the world.

(See IRAN: 3 Reality Checks on the Emerging U.S. Narrative)

Officials said that, under the chain of events in the war game, Iran believed that Israel and the United States were partners in any strike against Iranian nuclear sites and therefore considered American military forces in the Persian Gulf as complicit in the attack.

In other words, "We can't allow it to appear as if we're working in concert with Israel against Iran, because if and when Israel does attack Iran, we will have no place to hide from the Iranian retaliation."

(See U.S. War-Mongering: STOP! Now, or Be Estopped Later )

Other related links

"The real reason Persepolis was banned in the Chicago Public Schools last year is because it showed people in the Middle East as human beings, said Marjane Satrapi, the cartoonist who created it," reports Aimee Levitt in "What we learned at the 2014 Chicago Humanities Festival" in the Chicago Reader (November 13, 2014).