A screening of the award winning Bam 6.6 film was held at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. on February 23rd, 2010 which was hosted by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, John Limbert. Jahangir Golestan-Parast and myself held a Q & A session after the film. It was uplifting and gratifying to see the level of interest in Iran expressed by our young cadets. At a time when the US government deems Iran to be the enemy, it is more important than ever to keep a human face on Iran.
I reminded the cadets that there were times in our past history when Americans like Howard Baskerville and Morgan Shuster fought hard for the civil rights and liberties of the Iranian people during the Constitutional Revolution of 1906. There were times of great friendship as epitomized by our first Ambassador to Iran in 1885, Sargent Green Wheeler Benjamin, who was a poet and painter in his own right. Or in the 20th century, architect Arthur Upham Pope, who designed the Bank Melli headquarters with an Achamenian style and so loved Iran that he and his wife are buried in Esfahan by the banks of the Zayandeh River.
The point is that the two nations do not have to be enemies. The beauty and the simple message of Bam 6.6 the film, is the discovery of our common humanity and how working together regardless of nationality or ethnicity, we can overcome great hardships and soar to new heights. Imagine if you will, a military force being used for good, like a rescue operation after an earthquake rather than for destruction.
The cadets were appreciative of our comments and of the film. I shared my experience of visiting Iran two summers ago and the wonderful time I had had there with old and new friends alike after an absence of 30 years. I told them that I could not and would not consider Iran, "the enemy" and that there were alternatives to war especially at a time when it has become so evident that an opposition within Iran to the current dictatorship exists. This is a time that the Iranian people need our sympathy and not misguided policies like sanctioning of gasoline or blocking Iranians from gaining visas to visit the US. This is a time when as civilians, it is incumbent upon us to pressure our politicians for better foreign policies and to keep the US out of opportunistic wars and our young military personnel out of unnecessary harms way. Once a person signs up for military duty they more or less relinquish the right to question authority and therefore they are dependant upon us civilians to force the hand of our elected leadership towards a saner course.
The film Bam 6.6 eloquently speaks to our common humanity and shows how easily animosity can be forgotten and left behind in the face of greater human need; how the emotions and passions we share with one another are greater than the issues which divide us. War is not inevitable. Our minds and hearts working together can achieve peace. The hope in the little faces of the children of Bam orphaned by the earth quake shows the resilience of the human spirit. We have little control over natural disasters other than preparedness but we can influence whether there be war or peace. That is within our power to avoid unleashing the destructive force of warfare which takes far more human life and destroys more property than any natural disaster.
Bam earthquake killed an estimated 60,000 people. The war in Iraq has caused over 1.2 million Iraqi deaths so far and 1.3 million Iraqi refugees in Syria where they went to escape the war. This according to John Hopkins University and the National Geographic. The only way to keep from becoming immune to the death and human suffering of war is by keeping in touch with our common humanity, embracing it rather than hiding behind propaganda.
Jahangir Golestan-Parast (l) and Brian Appleton
It was in the spirit of peace in the summer of 2008 that I brought DVD copies of Bam 6.6 with me to give to the doctor and the nurses who had cared for the young American woman, Adelle Freedman, who had been injured in the earthquake and lost her fiancé, Tobb Del Oro. The surgeon, Dr. Noroozi, had performed five hours of reconstructive surgery on Adelle's feet and refused to accept one penny in payment. They were so happy to meet me and to receive the copies of the DVD. Iran is not the enemy. Everywhere I traveled in Iran, people tried to speak English to me and made it clear that they wanted peace not war with America.
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