I am not an American and I do not live in the U.S. and, god willing, never will.
But so much of the vibe coming out of that country reminds me of what I was feeling living as 16 year old in Iran and watching Khatami’s run for presidency in 1997.
I find that Iranian and American politics have a lot more in common than we give them credit for or would like to admit – being two of the only places in the world where the words “socialist” and “liberal” are next to death. Places where “the constitution” – written by a group of irrelevant dead people – is holy grail: the secret weapon. As soon as you say anything the leadership does not like they will either brand you a “liberal” or claim that your words are against the
Yes, the “founding fathers” they are referring to may have been leagues different in style, wisdom and legacy but they have nonetheless becomes weapons which we use to destroy all potential opponents.
And yet, there are times in a people’s history where physical laws of time and space no longer apply. There are times when the collective wisdom of a people seems to rise above what it was just days or even hours before. There are times when we decide as a nation that we will hope, we will want, we will attempt to do things differently.
HOPE is such a powerful thing. and I find that despite the fear and chaos on which this world is built, despite the greed and conceit that keeps it going, it is exactly these rare, unlikely moments that really keep us not just living, but alive. It is these moments that remind us of our humanity, our humility and of all that could be possible.
It is moments like this that remind us of what we truly are – or what we could become. The possibilities are endless and beautiful. And for a moment, we dare to dream.
I remember writing then as a 16 year old:
“With or without that piece of paper with my handwriting on it – with or without my vote – everything would go just the way it was supposed to go. But my vote was important to me, because it was the only voice I had in the Islamic Republic.
It wasn’t even much of a voice. All the candidates I would have wished to vote for had already been disqualified. Many of them might not have even bothered to enter the race knowing of its outcome. And who really knows who they could have been? With a simple gesture of the pen, another Mossadegh might have been crossed out, another Amir Kabir.
But my vote was a voice nevertheless, a whisper. And that’s all I have.
Will the next generation look down at me with anger and frustration? Will I never be asked why I didn’t at least try? The thought of that just makes me shudder. All I can do is hope that if I don’t possess the power to build, I will not give myself the right to corrupt. But that is something that only time will tell.
I had decided not to have anything to do with the chaos that is around me now, not to give anyone in this country the right to say that I and the likes of me were HIS supporters. So when I find myself searching for my shenaasnaame (ID) and sheepishly ask my mother to hand it over to me, I’m not the only one who is surprised.
Finally it’s my turn. I write down the five-letter name in Persian and walk outside, knowing that tomorrow morning, the official leaders of the Islamic Republic will overlook everything our votes represent. They’ll rave about how the number of votes show the degree of our loyalty, our love for what they have been doing. They’ll overlook the fact that 75% of those votes were not a Yes to Khatami, but a No to his opponents.
So why should I vote? Because by doing so, I can hope that I will be the one who gets the last laugh.
There are those who call Khatami a faker, a fanatic who can only smile and mischievously make promises he doesn’t intend to keep. A person who bears no difference from all the other people in charge. Someone who by tomorrow will forget all the reasons people voted for him. I will not argue their point. But just ask a simple question: What else was anyone to do? What other way exists for a better future that will not be followed by more killings and ruined lives? This vote was not for a person, but a path.
I put my vote in the box, not because I like Khatami, not because I want another mullah as my president, but just for the simple reason that no matter how small and impossible this dream may be, even though I can’t see how or why it may happen, I can hope and pray that now, my country’s freedom will not – as some claim – have to wait for guns and grenades.
Maybe — just maybe — this time around, the ballot box will be enough.”
But what I realize now is that my one vote wasn’t enough. It is not the day of the elections, but the day after that makes all the difference. Political systems all around the world are built on mass manipulation and mass deceit and we can not expect them to function any other way. We are wrong and naïve to even hope that they will function any other way. We can not expect one man to alter a system that is as old as time itself and as powerful.
In fact, it is not in that one man that our hope should lie – but the collective wisdom we have been able to achieve as people. That is what we forget the day after the elections, and that has been our greatest defeat every single time.
It is not in he that change will come; but in the we. Far after the banners have been brought down and the infomercials and celebrity endorsements forgotten, far after the winners and losers have been declared … Long after promises have been made and broken … Where are we?
It is not in the oval office or Sad-Abad, but the empty campaign grounds where we once enthusiastically stood, bursting with life and promise … that the death of hope enacts itself … over and over and over again.