Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Talk With Somebody About Iran Today. (Maybe a Member of Congress?)

Expo 67 - Iran Pavilion

When I attended Expo 67 nearly 40 years ago, it was a time infused with a great deal of hope that ordinary people could really know something about people in other countries, and that mutual understanding could be the basis of peace.

Pretty amazing -- considering that, at the time, we were barely glimpsing the possibilities of modern travel and communications.

I recall that around that time I learned about Iran by reading the article about it in our home set of the World Encyclopedia. (An "encyclopedia" was a book that contained articles on many subjects . . . . )

I also recall that a little more than ten years later -- in the fall of 1978 -- I was working on a story for the college paper about the student unrest in Iran. I looked up a professor in the telephone book (a "telephone book" was . . . well, you get the picture . . . .) and asked for comment. "Look for the return of a guy named Ayatollah Khomeini, who is currently exiled in Paris . . . . " he told me.

All the Shah's Men by Stephen Kinzer
The "hostage crisis" began in the fall of 1979. I remember it clearly because I was studying in Taiwan that year, and my fellow students and I were suddenly aware that, as US citizens in a foreign country, we could be seen by local people as stand-ins for everything they disliked about US policy and practice. (It was until much later that I, for one, stopped to wonder about my actual complicity in US policies and practices.)

Fast forward another 25 years, to the early 2000s, and I finally had a way to get essential background on US relations with Iran, reading All the Shah's Men by Stephen Kinzer. I highly recommend it: "The book discusses the 1953 Iranian coup d'├ętat backed by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in which Mohammed Mossadegh, Iran's prime minister, was overthrown by Islamists supported by American and British agents (chief among them Kermit Roosevelt) and royalists loyal to Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi."

In the past decade or so, I've found the films of Iran to be an especially powerful bridge between our two countries.

February 4, 2012, rallies to say "No War on Iran"
And in the past several years, the citizen's movement to block moves toward war with Iran has opened my eyes to what we need to do to bring about a world beyond war.

It is the easiest thing in the world to paint people in other countries as "scary" and to say that they are the kind of people that we have to be prepared to fight. It takes real effort (and courage!) to do the work required to learn about people, to begin to understand them, to engage in dialogue, and to step forward as an advocate for peace.

The moment of truth

July 14, 2015:  "Landmark deal reached on Iran nuclear program."

The negotiators worked hard to come to agreement. AND . . .

The deal agreed to by our countries' leaders would never have happened without continuous pressure from the people of our two countries.

Now is the time for all of us to recognize that the people -- not leaders -- are the key to insisting that the path of peace be pursued. People must, in large numbers, send a clear message to their representatives that they want this agreement implemented, and they want this model of peaceful resolution of conflicts to replace the resort to militarism and violence. (See "World Beyond War Supports Iran Deal" )

There will be no shortage of members of Congress who see this as an opportunity to puff out their chests and wave their arms and insist on continued conflict.

It will be the work of the people to insist that the path of peace be followed through.


Update: September 1, 2015

Yesterday, I was one of the people at a vigil outside a Mike Quigley event here in Chicago - urging everyone there (including the congressman) to support the #IranDeal. Based on what Robert Naiman heard inside, he's leaning yes.

Naiman said in his article about the event: "[T]he first question after the talk was: 'What is your position on the deal?' A moderator later said something like: there were 34 questions, and 30 of them were on the Iran deal. . . . The fact that so many questions were on the Iran deal certainly reflects engagement and interest from the City Club of Chicago audience; it may also reflect the fact that people who came to the event were greeted by people with'"No War With Iran' and 'Defend Diplomacy' signs."

Thanks to colleagues all over the country who are showing up in large numbers to urge their representatives to pursue the path of peace. This is what democracy looks like!

August 31, 2015: Vigil outside luncheon event for Rep. Mike Quigley (IL-5):
"Defend Diplomacy" and "No War with Iran!"

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)

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.

(See Why Does Iran Arouse So Much Hostility?)

Here are seven big reasons people should be VERY wary of any and all statements that about how Iran is "asking for it" . . . why they are tweeting every Friday with the #NoIranWar hashtag . . . and why they are reaching out every day to members of Congress to resist the "Iran Threat Reduction Act" . . . .

(See #NoIranWar )

After a call to resist U.S. war moves against Iran went out just a few days ago, the list of February 4, 2012, rallies to say "No Iran War!" is growing FAST.

(See No Iran War Rallies EVERYWHERE! )