Sung to the tune of REM’s song…
“Did you know that a German paper has published a cartoon of the Iranian national team as suicide bombers?”
I laugh. K doesn’t think it’s funny. “It’s an insult to the Iranian people, not to our government.”
“I am sure that they did not caricature the individual players.”
“It is still our team.”
The paper's editors are clueless as to why portraying athletes as terrorists might have outraged Iranians. "The absurdity of the situation is obvious," editor Gerd Appenzeller writes in an opinion piece. No one, he argues, would ever believe that the Iranian team would show up armed -- nor would the Bundeswehr be present on the soccer pitch. "The illustrator makes that clear," he explains. "The Iranians' faces, just like those of the Germans, are those of peaceful everyday people -- the boys next door" -- not rabid terrorists. The paper said it "regretted the Iranian reactions to the caricature" and that it would be hard to explain the domestic political debate over deploying the Bundeswehr during the World Cup to the Iranians.
Don’t joke about football in Iran… the riots will really start!
“Iran deserves it. They advertise for suicide bombers, train them, reward them. What do they expect?”
“Now an Iranian paper is sponsoring a contest for cartoons about the Holocaust.”
“That’s where free speech gets you…”
“No one is making fun of the Iranians who were gassed during the war with Iraq. They are not the subject of cartoons. Surely you see the difference.”
“Of course I see the difference. But when I go to Europe people see me as a terrorist. That’s what bothers me.”
Iranians know that the rest of the world sees them as terrorists. It really, really disturbs them. But they are out of control of their image abroad. It’s been hijacked.
“Why can’t we be a normal country?”
“You know, modern. A place where people are not scared.”
I have said this before, and I’ll say it again: the biggest lesson I have learned in Iran is that free speech is more important than democracy. Iranians all have opinions. They know how to talk, and they speak their minds. What they cannot do is organize. I can tell you what I think as long as I don’t tell three strangers what I think. I can disagree with government actions as long as I don’t try to get anyone else to act on my ideas. Talk is okay. Action is not. Free speech is action.
Gene (in the comments section) asks about the bus drivers in Iran. Do people know what is going on? I don’t know. We have heard sympathy for them. But it’s very quiet. Think of these drivers… They are AN’s natural constituents: poor, hardworking, most likely observant. And they are arrested and put in prison for demanding living wages! AN would probably call them “imaginary,” just as he did when Christianne Amanpour asked him about the plight of people similar to these drivers.
This is a regime that punishes its supporters more than its detractors. There is absolutely no news of the plight of the bus drivers in Iran. There is very, very little discussion of it.
Well, I'll make sure to look for the union label and remember the depth of gratitude I owe to the unions and guilds who spent centuries creating dialog, free speech, and democracy. (Do you think that might actually be the case? I am not a historian of democracy or of unions/guilds... just wondering.)