By Daniel Moskowitz
Denver, Colorado USA
“A war based on the premise of potential development of nuclear arms that the United States and Israel already have in their possession? I think we have some talking to do instead.”
When I learned about a meeting of the Colorado Coalition Against Attacking Iran from my old friend, Tom Rauch, who was formerly the Nuclear Disarmament Coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee, I did not hesitate to sign up.
However, my interest in Iran began over three decades ago. Among Iranian college students in the United States in the late 1970s, it was not uncommon to hear them chanting the slogan “Down with the Shah” on college campuses. Many leftists in the United States went so far as to label the Shah as a “Puppet” of the United States. Of course, as a young adolescent, I did not have enough awareness of the 1953 coup d’état in Iran in which the democratically elected government of Mohammad Mossadegh was overthrown by the Iranian military under the Direction of the C.I.A. and British intelligence so Western interests could gain control of Iranian oil. I simply felt that if college students don’t like the Shah of Iran, he must be doing something wrong, in some way oppressing the people of Iran.
As a student in the Gifted and Talented Program in 9th Grade at Hill Junior High, I took a short retreat at the Denver Public Schools Center called Balarat. One of the projects our class took on was to make an Ayatollah Khomeini dartboard. I guess the normal, “patriotic” thing to do at the time was to demonize and dehumanize the Ayatollah. It was “cool.” So, I took the Ayatollah Khomeini dartboard home and hung it above the bedpost in my room. As a Jewish-American teenager, growing up on the southeast side of Denver, Colorado, I had sexy posters of Farrah-Fawcett Majors, Cheryl Ladd, Cheryl Tiegs, Bo Derek and now, the Ayatollah Khomeini dart board, on my wall.
As I entered young adulthood, I began listening to a lot of angry rap music; foremost among the artists was the group Public Enemy. My appreciation for other cultures and traditions began through coping with a hereditary psychiatric condition, bipolar disorder. One day, I purchased some African music CDs from an Ethiopian woman in downtown Denver. Two of my favorites were Ali Farka Toure from Mali and Ayub Ogada from Kenya, who plays the “nyatiti” (indigenous harp) and is part of the same Luo tribe as our current president of the United States, Barack Obama. Of course, many years ago, at Rodef Shalom Hebrew School, I had read that the disturbed Hebrew King Saul had been comforted by David playing the lute. Well, once I had learned to appreciate the traditional music of Africa, my tastes in music began to expand, and I started to enjoy Cheb Khaled from Algeria, which a young African man recommended to me at Virgin Records. In Rai music, there was a certain passion for life, but not so much anger. Well, I figured that, since I enjoyed Arabic music, I might like traditional Iranian music as well. It turned out that there was hardly any traditional Iranian music that I DIDN’T like.
Night, Silence, Desert
Mohammad Reza Shajarian and
Are Iranian and
Is it ironic?
Is it ironic that as a Jewish American
I enjoy music
From a country that is
Ostracized and labeled as an ‘enemy’
By my country, America?
But it is the music
From the tradition of this ‘enemy’
That brings ease and relaxation to my mind.
At a hospital waiting room in Aurora, Colorado, I noticed some people who seemed quite familiar, but I couldn’t quite place their ethnicity or nationality and I didn’t want to be rude by asking. There were two concerned, loving parents with their adult daughter. These people acted in a manner that was familiar to me from Jewish people, and, ethnically, they looked a lot like Russians. Their language sounded more like Hebrew than it did Arabic, but I heard a name, “Hassan,” which is clearly not a Jewish name. I eventually summoned the courage to inquire with these people regarding their nationality. They were Iranian.
Well, I happened to be reading A First Rate Madness by Dr. Nassir Ghaemi, who is also Iranian, that day. The parents were very excited when they saw this book, and they immediately perceived me as a friend. Unfortunately, the time had come for the appointments of both me and their daughter, so I never had the chance to obtain any contact information for this family, and I felt a strong sense of regret. So, on Facebook, I tried to make an effort to locate and contact Iranian people. I felt that I had a certain connection with them. I even trekked down to the Darya Restaurant near Dartmouth Avenue and Parker Road just to have a meal and experience the ambience and art of Iran.
As people in the United States and Israel spoke more and more of the “Iranian threat” in regard to potential development of nuclear weapons inside Iran, I had already developed a cultural affinity, and how could I support a war against a people I had grown to know and love and respect? A war based on the premise of potential development of nuclear arms that the United States and Israel already have in their possession? I think we have some talking to do instead.
I joined the American-Iranian Friendship Council in Portland, Oregon, and I was heartened by the Peace Conference we had at First Unitarian Church here in Denver.
I know that my fellow American citizens and neighbors here in Denver are not always interested in U.S. foreign policy or even in current events. Some are fearful of being labeled as “subversive” for considering criticisms of American foreign policy, while others simply want to do things in their spare time that are perceived to be more enjoyable than staying abreast of the news.
Yet, what I have observed here in Denver is that people are “culture vultures” and that the poetry, music, and art of Iran is much in demand. We might even appreciate the poems of Jalal ad-Din Rumi and Hafez more than those of Allan Ginsberg! If we go to war with Iran, we will necessarily be at war with the people of Iran, with the culture of Iran, and ultimately with the peoples and cultures of the wider Middle East. Why should we support dehumanization and war, when we know they are not the path to peace? Rather, we should build on existing good will between the people of Iran and those of the United States.
As is written in the Qur’an, it may be possible to eliminate the potential for war in the future if we really make an effort to get to know one another.
The views and opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Peace X Peace.