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Iranians in America: More than an expression of culture

By Najid Abimi

My opinions may not come from a lot of experience or expertise, but I think I know the Iranian or least Iranian-American experience fairly well. Ok, I can definitely say I am deeply acquainted with the latter, despite my efforts to keep my identity ethnically neutral. While I don't want to give the impression that I am ashamed of being the progeny of Iranian-born parents or that I have anything against our culture, I disagree with the notion that everyone of Iranian decent or of any smaller ethnic group for that matter should feel that it is their duty to parade their culture around to the point of becoming a caricature or stereotype of something that is far deeper than wearing old Iranian village clothing and barbequing kabob once a year for Aide.

Unfortunately, this is the trend that is overtaking cultural expression in America in our current period of history. Many ethnic or cultural minority organizations feel that they must have "their voices heard" by putting on cultural shows and festivities under an apolitical atmosphere, which definitely entertains the rest of us but leaves little room for the socio-economic concerns of these groups. If individuals allow these organizations to act as their cultural and political representatives, they must be willing to compromise their unique opinions and ideas on many important matters with those of the majority within their minority. Actions or opinions that conflict with the majority may fall on deaf ears or be suppressed by the individual whose sense of loyalty leads to feelings of guilt for disagreeing with the ultimate "voice" of his or her people.

This is where civic participation in the form of polling and voting especially, can fill in the gap between political expression as a member of an ethnicity or nationality and political expression as an individual. The obvious reason for this is that voting takes place on an individual basis in which one feels a lot less pressure to think or act as anyone else or in a group mindset. Furthermore, when each vote is considered, the sum of these many personal views creates a more genuine illustration of what is important to different groups of people. The majority of America is less likely to make simplifying and prejudiced assumptions about our political views with the availability of actual empirical data about our voting tendencies and political views. Ultimately, politicians are more likely to listen to our concerns as Iranians if they know that we vote as well as honor our cultural traditions to express ourselves.

It remains extremely important to be active in the culture of our people as a way to strengthen our familial relationships and provide a strong basis for community interaction. But from this foundation, the real, rational voice of the individual who covets human dignity and the freedom to succeed in every way a person is a capable of succeeding must be heard. It is only the need for these inalienable rights that must be the substance of any unified message we as Iranians present to America or the rest of the world, who apparently are not fully convinced that cultures of the Near East are capable of practicing democracy.

About the author:
Najid Abimi, born to Iranian parents in US, resides in Northern California. He studies Molecular Biology at UC Berkeley and has taken classes in political science and economics. He is currently active with the Bay Area Iranian Voter Association ( where he helps with voting registration and publicity.

... Payvand News - 6/10/04 ... --

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