I grew up in Iran and immigrated to US to avoid living in a theocracy. Lately though, the trajectory of US politics is something to worry about, not only to me, but also to many others in my predicament.
Wednesday night at the Republican convention was an especially poignant moment. I was watching Sarah Palin deliver her acceptance speech. As I was watching her, her family, and her adoring fans in the Republican convention, I could not overcome a feeling that I have seen this scene before…
Right after the Revolution in Iran and the establishment of the Islamic Republic, the Iran-Iraq war was started. To be fair, Iraq started that war, but the new revolutionary leaders of Iran saw the war as a godsend. They milked it for all it was worth. They labeled anyone against the war as a traitor or unpatriotic. Anyone who suggested that there may be a negotiated settlement was ridiculed and purged from power. Even Ayatollah Khomeini once said that this war is a blessing from God himself. You may see the parallels here already, but keep reading.
One of the problems the government faced was opposition from legions of mothers whose sons had been maimed or died in the war. To confront this problem, the government-controlled TV would parade a mother whose son had died in the war in front of the TV on a regular basis. Invariably, this "show mom" would be carrying an infant child and a few other siblings with her. And invariably, she would say something to the effect that "I have given one child to this ‘sacred’ war, and I am ready to give the next one." Almost always, there would be an adoring crowd who would follow her statements by chants of "Allaho-Akbar" (God is Great). And again invariably, her statements would follow by a not-so-veiled threat from her and the adoring crowd. She would say something like "I and my family would not tolerate traitors and betrayals to the faith and country". Then the crowd would break into several standard chants such as "Death to traitors" or "War, war, until victory."
Sarah Palin was much better dressed than the average show mom paraded on Iranian TV more than 20 years ago. The show moms were typically dressed in a black veil. But thats about the biggest difference. The rhetoric was eerily familiar. When she was finished, I knew I had seen her before. Only that it wasnt her. It was her ideological predecessors at a different time in a different country.
Now, I am not a politician. I just cannot understand the need to drag a child afflicted with Down syndrome in front of national TV at 10:00pm. Is that good for him? Or does the need to rally the base trump the needs of a child? Whatever the explanation, I am sure I have seen that child when he was carried in the arms of the Iranian show moms for the cameras. So much for family values.
And then I wake the next morning and read that Sarah Palin is quoted as saying that the Iraq war is a "task that is from God." Its like déjà-vu all over again.