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An American Kid in Tehran

By Michael Gordon

The 'truths' about current events that most Americans believe come from a perspective portrayed by American mass Media such as TV, radio, and national newspapers. I have learned through my life by personal experience that our mass Media can and does 'manipulate' the truth to suit its own agenda.

In 1978 I was a seventh and eighth grade student at the Tehran American School in Tehran, Iran. My father worked for AT&T. He volunteered to go to Iran to work on a contract between the Shah of Iran and AT&T to build a phone network in Iran. My parents and I left for Tehran in mid December 1977. We lived in the center of Tehran. I only ever knew of three other American families who lived near to us.

Our first few months in Tehran included many adventures just to setup our apartment. AT&T workers and families did not qualify for any PX privileges, so we had to do all of our shopping in neighborhood stores. We shopped at the local groceries, furniture stores, butcher shops, bakeries, pastry shops, and the Bazaar. We met many Iranian people in our adventures. Without exception they were the most respectful and courteous people I have ever had the privilege to meet. I wish I could say the same about the Americans I met there.

My parents raised me to always be respectful of others. The conduct of many Americans I saw there towards the Iranian people was unconscionable. The wealthier or more important the American, the worse their treatment of the people was. Many Americans, especially in the military and diplomatic core, treated the Iranians like abused pets. On multiple occasions I witnessed American women spit upon Iranian men and call them 'dogs.' The Iranians had nothing to deserve this treatment. Their only crime was not understanding English. Even after being spat upon, these men would not return the insults. They would try to understand what caused the 'misunderstanding' and seek to ameliorate the situation. This conduct was so widespread that for the first time in my life, at age 12, I felt ashamed to be an American.

Tehran was built in the foothills of mountains, elevations increasing towards the north and sloping to the south. Northern Tehran is where the wealthy ruling classes and business classes of people lived. Very southern Tehran was impoverished.

I watched from a neighbor's rooftop, portions of southern Tehran burn on September 8, 1978. The student led revolution against the Shah had begun. Tehran was under Martial Law. The last two months I was there educated me greatly in how the world really worked. The Shah turned off all electricity in the city every evening. I could listen to a battery powered cassette player and tapes when we had batteries. Otherwise the nights were very quiet, except for the incessant bursts of gunfire.

The Iranian people had started going to their rooftops and chanting words to Allah. That violated the martial law curfew, so the Shah's troops would shoot from the street, anyone near the edge of the roof. My father and I went on to our own roof, staying low and in the center, and listened. We heard a wave after wave of 'Allaahu Akbar,' which means 'God is great.' The waves would start in the southern part of the city, and rise up the slope to the north. The chants would come towards us, over us, and then travel away up the mountain slope. These waves were the voices of one or two million people. This was by far the most 'spiritual' moment of my life, even to this day. The people had turned to their faith to help them overcome a tyrant, much as early American settlers had done while fighting in our revolutionary war against the British Crown.

My mother and I were evacuated from Tehran in mid December 1978. My father followed 6 weeks later. I began to watch American television again. I was dismayed at how the revolution was portrayed here. I felt I had been present in the wonderful experience of the overthrow of a heinous dictator, the Shah Pahlavi. I imagined how it must have felt at the beginning of our own nation, as our founding fathers stood up to the British Crown and revolted against tyranny. Our Media portrayed the Iranian revolution not as the liberation of a people from tyranny, but as a strike against American interests. I didn't know all about the CIA led coup that overthrew the democratically elected government and re-installed the Shah Pahlavi in 1953. I didn't fully understand that America was not an ally of the Iranian people, but an ally of the Shah. It was then that I realized that our American government didn't act in the best interests of its citizens, but in its own best interests. Those interests of whoever held the Presidency would determine the interests of the American Government.

I am concerned that individuals within our government are using their positions of power to promote their own agenda for a 'New Middle East.' This upcoming war with Iraq has the potential to be the greatest crime against humanity ever committed by man. This will be a worse crime than the Holocaust because this crime will be committed by the 'Free' nations of the world. We did not learn the truth of the Holocaust until after WW II. The true motives for this war are widely known now. Oil and a Greater Israel are the motives. This war will not stop with Iraq. Iran and Saudia Arabia are already in the sights of our policymakers in Washington.

Our American society was founded upon the principles of democracy and self-determination, not military conquest and genocide. If the American people do not rise up and stop this war, the soul of our nation will be lost. We will become a tyrannical nation, further despised around the world and hated for our hypocrisy.

I would very much like to return to Tehran for a visit someday. I would like to be part of a healing process between the Iranian people and the American people. I do not want to be a party to the Americanization / Israelizaiton of Iran and the Middle East. It is not yet too late to stop this madness. We as Americans must find the moral backbone to stop this war before all of the sacrifice and effort of our founding fathers and preceding generations is destroyed.

... Payvand News - 2/12/03 ... --

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