Thursday, August 14, 2008

I am not a Dangerous Person!

“So did you bring nuclear weapons with you, young lady?” This question is probably the saddest question that random individuals ask me when they realize I am from Iran. “ Eyeran? Wow. So did you bring nuclear weapon with you, young lady?” When I hear this question, I want to both cry without hiding my sorrow and laugh loudly. I want to cry, because out of all of the wonders that one might have about me and out of all the questions that a stranger could ask me, they choose a question with which quite frankly I have nothing to do. I myself am perhaps considered a fugitive of sorts from Iran and no matter how much I love my birthplace I have a history and a baggage that is distinct from the stereotypes that exist about Iran in the world. Iran certainly has many flaws, political and social problems and those who know me(and my family) are aware that I have a lot to narrate about those flaws and repression. However, my bitter experiences in that land do not mean that I should also contribute to the ignorance that exists in the West about Iran. No government in the world represents the opinions of all of its citizens and this especially applies to rather repressive governments. Some of us consider ourselves from the Iran that despite its current circumstances is historically and culturally a very rich, unique and valuable place. It saddens me that my being Iranian at times automatically gives those who do not even know me the right to tease me for my nationality and the news headlines regarding Iran. Irregardless of where I stand in terms of my opinions and criticism of Iran, I should be respected for who I am and no stranger should be inconsiderate enough to attack me with an outrageous question of this nature in a short introductory conversation. So when I hear this question, I think about how many of us will have to constantly prove these unfortunate stereotypes wrong throughout our lives. I am willing to fight these stereotypes to prove to the world that not all Iranians are evil, destructive and dangerous. I close my eyes and wish for the day when no innocent individual is treated with disrespect for their nationality, ethnicity and race.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Fear of Entering Graduate School

So I will begin graduate school in three weeks. I will be studying Public Policy for two years and the second year I will choose a concentration. The first year will be mostly mandatory classes along with one elective. I am not going to lie…I am scared! I just received the list of my mandatory classes and even their names sound hard and so unlike the “Azadeh” that I have known throughout college. Since I majored in Comparative Literature, I studied so many amazing literary topics and enjoyed almost every second of it. But, this past year I realized that for the kind of foreign affairs and human rights-orientated fields that interest me, I need to gain a different set of skills and so I applied to foreign affairs and public policy MA programs. Now that I have decided to go to the Kennedy School of Government and have enrolled in their Public Policy program, I have started to actually realize how much I will probably be challenged by the nature of the program and in general its atmosphere.

Needless to say, having gone to a liberal arts school like Oberlin College I am used to a very different social scene and ways of interaction. In a way, in Oberlin I was mostly surrounded by hippies, idealistic and peace-loving peers and even professors. Now, I am entering a professional school with peers who are probably more realistic and hence more moderate (more practical and perhaps less academic) in their way of perceiving this world. I have always seen myself somewhere in between these two sides. So I should be fine at the Kennedy School. But I continue to be a bit nervous and stressed about it. Though, I have gone through harder times than this and I really hope I can succeed in my graduate studies. Before even having started my program, I feel guilty for the fact that many intelligent Iranian young women and men could have been in my privileged situation and be at the school that I am. But, to be honest with you this feeling of guilt has proved to be a rather unproductive feeling. Instead, I should probably look ahead and work as hard as I can so that hopefully in the future I could be influential and helpful in the lives of at least a few human beings. Who knows?

I will take the following classes this coming semester (along with one elective course and my teaching fellowship-teaching Persian-that is 20-25 hours per week):

1)The Responsibilities of Public Action

2) Market and market Failure

3) Quantitative Analysis and Empirical Methods

4) Strategy, Structure, and Leadership in Public Service Organizations

Frankly, I cannot even make sense or remember these long names, let alone understanding what they are all about. A challenging academic year is fast approaching….deep breath.Ready? GO!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

"Am I Not Obama Enough?"

One of my close friends from college was in town this past week. We met up at a book store in Cambridge (Massachusetts). He is an amazing writer and I cannot wait for his first book to come out. It is supposed to get published within this coming year. I will write about it here once it gets published. I am certain that he will become a best-seller. He is an amazing writer and also he is a lot to say and narrate about his childhood in Zimbabwe.

In any case, during the couple of hours that we spent together sipping on our coffee and sharing our thoughts and stories of the past year, he told me about his recent experience. Hearing about this experience made me think for many hours. Even though it might seem like a minor and insignificant moment between two strangers in the streets of Boston, I cannot pass by it without disappointment. His little story was as follows:

A few days ago, he was walking in Boston and was trying to find a restaurant. He was a bit lost and so he decided to ask someone for directions. He asked a white woman who was passing by for directions and the lady did not respond. He asked her once again and the lady still did not respond. The third time, she only looked at him and did not respond. When she turned back to look at my friend, he saw an Obama pin on her coat. My friend told me, “I thought to myself: ‘Am I not Obama enough for you to respond to my question?’ ”

We talked a bit about the connotations of being black in this country (and perhaps in other countries. My experience is only in the context of the US). I do not mean to write an in-depth post about this topic and just wanted to share the painfully ironic experience of a friend and his hurt feelings about it. “Am I not Obama enough for you?”…..My friend’s voice gets echoed in my head and the voice repeats this question: “Am I not Obama enough for you?”

We are strange creatures and are unbelievably trapped in our own world of restricting stereotypes and prejudices with which we live and consequently miss out on expanding our horizons. How incredibly sad…

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