June 21, 2009

The Old Men Don't Know, but the Little Girls Understand



I don't know if Howlin' Wolf has ever been translated into Farsi, but if Islamic Republic government snipers are now killing beautiful women on live TV, something's sure gone up the Supreme Leader's ass sideways. Call me a sucker, call me a romantic, call me a suburban armchair activist—but I have been extremely moved by the fact that the women of Iran seem to be in the vanguard of the election-related protests. Indeed, if the basiji are shooting innocent bystanders—as they seem to be doing in a heartbreaking and grisly snuff film out of (I believe) Tehran, then the current regime's days truly are numbered. You don't win friends and influence people by murdering the hot chicks, Khameni.

Now, maybe all this is by design, and maybe I'm being manipulated by imagery from a country whose history I only somewhat know and whose culture I barely understand, but it's difficult to not get caught up in the drama of this thing. It's difficult to not draw tangential parallels to Prague or Paris in 1968 or China in 1989—which people have been doing rather clumsily, by the way—and it's also difficult to reconcile the fact of potentially major transformative change erupting via the most banal tools imaginable: Twitter and Facebook. I mean, I know you go revolt with the tools you have and not the overwhelming force you wish you had, but for a venue like Twitter—which I use, but still find impossible to take as seriously as Twitter seems to take itself—this is alternately a laughably legitimizing development as well as a laudable exploitation of a previously facile platform.

But whatever works, as they say—and what does work, and what's always worked, is the simple and supremely obvious truism that apparently even the Iranian state police were admonishing each other with: "You must never strike a woman". Men with even a drop of empathy in their veins know that, and know they're seeing their mothers/wives/sisters/friends/daughters/nieces/whomever on TV and the web out in the front of this thing. I realize that's a pretty elementary, simple, and naive thing to say, but that doesn't make it any less true—because in my (admittedly WASPy Irangeles-oriented) experience, Persians don't like to fuck around, man. Sure, they can be arrogant, fastidious, and frustratingly urbane, but that's because they have standards, and they don't appreciate when those are tossed around like so many political footballs.

Or soccer balls—but of course they wouldn't use such a term. By the way, the Iranian soccer team has some brass ones, don't they? If you can get athletes to hang in there with you—especially those who are already out and about in decadent Europe like most of the Iranian team are anyway—you're pretty solid, baby. Going on about this stuff for too long will put me into Andrew Sullivan territory, of course—and Lord knows I can't stomach even a hint of that silly man, even when he's right—but I've been glued to it since election day in Iran, and it's been absolutely fascinating to me for a multitude of reasons.

The biggest one, though, is the one from personal experience: I roomed with an Iranian immigrant as a sophomore in college, and although I couldn't stand the guy and he hated me right back, I knew exactly why he was the way he was—he grew up amid the total chaos of the 1979 revolution, and he thus sought absolute order. He was an engineering major, a neat freak with a crew cut and a severe Napoleon complex, and every once in a while he would scream like a maniac in the shower—but it was hard to not be empathetic toward him, even if he detested my American collegiate rock & roll lifestyle. He was fucking crazy, but he loathed the ayatollahs, man. I mean, really hated them, with the heat of 10,000 supernovas. He told me the story once of how he came to L.A., though Iraq and Syria and (if I recall correctly) Paris—an odyssey that took guts of steel and certainly more of everything than I've ever been able to muster in my coddled Californian existence.

But this was supposed to be about the hot Persian chicks telling their Supreme Leader to fuck off, so let's get back to that. The thing that's been most moving to me is the broad swath of Iranian womanhood involved in this: covered and uncovered, old and young, urban and (I presume) rural—but maybe not so much of the latter. Who knows, though—when the communication channels are all cut off and all we have is an erstwhile buffoon like Roger Cohen to tell us what's going on. Well, that's not entirely true—we do have Christiane Amanpour, for better or worse the Iranian female journalist of our times, and that's good enough for now, even if (I think) she's not on Twitter yet. Come on babe, get with the program. Your sisters are way ahead of you here, but you're all awesome.

Cross-posted: dkos, dd, mlw

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