The New Internationalism Essays Politics

Iranica / Opposite Day in Iran – by Kiki Mercury

Iranica / Opposite Day in Iran
In these gay times, with our coasts kissed by hurricanes named Henri and Fabian (fabulous!), with Republican Terminators taking over California, who has the will to ruin the party and think internationally? Alas, this is blessed war-time, with the second anniversary of September 11 upon us—what better time for a primer on everyone’s perpetual favorite middle eastern problem child: Iran. The White House after all thinks Iran’s been a lil’ D.L. these days, reminding us that the country lies just a border from, and three alphabetical letters away from Iraq. But who we are, where we really stand, what we mean—well, if you’re Iranian like me you will have trouble finishing this very sentence.

Primer Glossary:

“Opposite Day”: an expression, rooted in elementary school discourse and playground tradition. Children generally between the ages of 6-11 generally exclaim, “Opposite Day!” when meaning to absolutely negate a previously stated concept, notion, phrase, sentence, or word: I eat kaka; you don’t eat kaka. Opposite Day! Synonyms: “Psyche!”, “Not!”

“Dune-goon”: slang, (usu. offensive.) a person of Middle-Eastern origin, usually of Arab origins. Synonyms: “Sand-nigga,” “Towelhead,” “Camel-jockey,” “Blackhead” [Swedish, German]

Iran: Formerly (until 1935), Persia. A republic in SW Asia: an Islamic republic since 1979. 53, 920,000; ab. 635,000 sq.mi.

Gay: adj. having or showing a merry, lovely mood: gay manner. 2. bright or showy: gay colors. 3. given to or abounding in social or other pleasures: a gay social season. 4. homosexual: judging from his manners and colors, the gentleman is a gay!

Bad: adj. 1. not good in any manner or degree: He is one bad president. 2. Slang. Outstandingly excellent; first-rate: He is one bad president!

Q&A:

Q: I’m watching the news these days. What’s the deal with Iran? I am so confused. Good? Evil? Huh?

Here’s a test: if you can’t answer this about your homeland, you are from a country that, whether good or evil, “counts.” (e.g.: Bali=good; the U.S. = hmm?) First of all, no Iranian I know is fit to answer this, especially me. Iranian-American, yes, but I was also a full-time 90s Los Angeles valley girl. Not even from the Moon-Zappa-valley, the San Fernando, but the other east side valley, the San Gabriel. We don’t even have Iranians; the Iranians are in Beverly Hills and Westwood. Remember the first day of school in Clueless, when Alicia Silverstone is introducing Brittany Murphy to 90210 High and pointing out a group of all-black-Armani-donning, gold-jewelry-strewn, big hair-sprayed/slick-gelled kiddies all glues to their cellies—“That’s the Persian mafia,” Silverstone’s insightful Cher points out, “You can’t hang with them unless you own a BMW.”

I certainly didn’t own a Beamer—and neither did my family—one possible explanation as to why I had no Iranian friends. I was located deep in the listless crotch of the anonymous the east side, where everyone assumed I was “Spanish,” well-blended with the ethnic lo-mid masses, with a Daddy who actually owned a Pinto, then upgrading to a Dodge Omni hatchback. My parents taught me Sizzler was a nice night out and that you never tip more than $2, no matter how much the bill. The Royal Mercurys.

Early on conflicted Iranian identity was very obvious to me. PhD-holding Daddy, while mysteriously making no money teaching computer science, astronomy, physics, etc. at UCLA, proudly claimed the many west-side Persian mafia kids he taught were “always the best” and “truly nerds.” At the same time I will never forget my good friend Wendy who opted to go there, asking me if my parents expected me to marry Iranian, because, she warned, the UCLA Iranian boys were “fiends,” “coke dealers,” and did “everything short of date-rape and maybe that too.”

Proud/not proud?

Therefore, in a city called Tehrangeles by many, nobody really knew what to make of “us.” I still don’t know.

Now, with twentysomethings still in the trenches of the ironic “so-bad-it’s-so-good” hipster logic era (the post-9/11 New Sincerity came and went), I guess there is a constituency that can stomach Iran as both terrible and awesome. Like the schizophrenic ingenuity that allows a hipster to view marshmallow fluff as simultaneously disgusting and delicious, or don a $200 mullet that is both fashion and fugliness, Iran sucks and rules in way I would say only my generation is fit to deal with. I am thinking of sending my peers, the Bush daughters, for instance, a halter top I inherited pre Sept 11, designed by Iranian-NYC design duo Michael & Hushi, that says “Death to America” in Persian graffiti with little gold glitter bullets coming out of the machine guns of prettily stenciled veiled Iranian chicks…you like?

Q: What is someone from Iran anyway?

Iranian. I mean, Persian. I mean, Iranian…

Bo-ring. Remember the last time you asked one of my people where they were from? Bet they said “Persian.” “Persian” is what Iranians who refuse to identify with present-day “Iran” and its Islamic reign of terror call themselves. Some of these people additionally belong to the particularly loathsome subset who think by marketing themselves as people of “Persia,” they conjure up lots of pretty paisley flying carpets, Arabian night images, Rumi poems, Shiraz wine, and the long-haired fat cats. They will always insist they too belong to the “Caucasoid” race and when convenient, avoid the matter altogether, and call themselves “Eurasian.”

Last year, I started saying “Iranian.”

“Iran” as a word has a lot of shit attached: Iran Contra Affair. Iranian hostage crisis. Much of it is linked to danger, American fear, and Iranian oppression.

But on the bright side, “Iran” means home of Aryans, or rather “Aryan Nation!” Wow: “Aryan!” There’s a fun word! Yes, scholars agree that Iranians, not only speak an Indo-European language—Farsi—that is not Arabic at all, they are not Semites ethnically at all—they join Turks and Israelis the only non-Arabs in the middle east. (Iranian nationalists will heatedly, often with clenched fists, remind you that they are only Arab by rape.) Apparently the Aryan tribes originated in Iran, and then during the Ice Age after all the deserts got flooded fled to the eternally iced Northern Europe. To make matter more sketchy, Iranian reliefs and art, like those in India, are full of the ancient spiritual sign, the swastika! If that weren’t enough, my OG-Aryan countrymen, particularly the ones in Iran, often have terrible prejudices against other races, from Asians to blacks. For instance, the Persian New Year “Santa” equivalent, still incorporated in Persian festivities and fearlessly doing his jigs annually on Persian TV stations, is a dancing clown in a red suit and black face. What does the KKK think of us? That is the real question.

Admittedly, there is a side of me that somewhat relishes this image of the confused homicidal whitepower fascistic gypsy, the “Iranian.” Rather than to see this as say “scary,” I choose to embrace the verboten sexiness and the fact that most media-savvy, well-or-even-non-educated, white grown-ups, when really considering this combo, tend to congratulate “us” on our assimilation-prowess, our excellent grasp of the language, our good manners, lack of ethnic anger and feelings of cultural vindication, all most likely in the name of opting not to fuck with “us.”

Q: Doesn’t America think you are evil?

Totally!

Q: So are you evil?

Totally!

Q:How do you feel about America saying you were born in a country that is part of the Axis of Evil?

I am sure our resident reigning whiteyrighties believe Iran is some combustible ethical Hades, filled like an éclair with nuclear cream, but all I can say is hey. [Shrug]

The real problem rather is what I call “commercial-break syndrome”—the peace-sign-flashing interventionist distracters who pop up every time someone wrongs an “other” in the name of cultural saviordom. The albatross at my Aryan neck is the left-wing liberals who love us dune-goons! You know the type: they recite Sufi poetry, think veils are actually “quite striking”, will only cook Basmati rice, do yoga even though Iran has nothing to fucking do with India (what about some Iranian national sports like wrestling + soccer, you fucking hippie?), love sitar and other archaic middle eastern instruments even though in Iran they are still rocking out to Like A Virgin-era Madonna and Smooth Criminal era Jacco…and they might even do horrible things like name their children Ali—after the prophet whose elaborate harem included his favorite nine-year-old—a name they also like, Aisha. Their dream is to go to Shiraz. To swim in the Caspian sea. To read Rumi in the original. Salman Rushdie’s politics confuses them.

These people don’t count.

Enter George W’s January State of the Union “Axis of Evil” speech. The offending statement: “Iran aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the Iranian people’s hope for freedom.” Okay, the term “Axis of Evil” is very He-Man and Skeletor and yes, Bush is a reductive simpleton but the offending sentence…not wrong! Ask any Iranian in Iran: nobody is happy! Newsflash: the people are oppressed! An Iranian who does not agree their homeland government is evil is just wrong or works for them.
Plus, let’s put it in context—every trio has its unlikely member. With the Axis, we could all agree that Iraq did a few things over time to merit membership. North Korea… well, little did we know what a crazy ho NoKo would be, begging for a lil’ American-spankie… but Iran? Well, Iran, didn’t as obviously fit in. Let’s consider Iran the Jan Brady, the Larry of the Stooges, the non-blond Dixie chick, the Lucy Liu of the new Angels. Iran could be in or out and the Axis would carry on.

So does Bush hate Iran? Certainly. Do all right-wing Republicans hate Iran? Well, yes. But they go where the money (or oil) goes. After all, everyone’s favorite rotund righty, good ol’ Newt Gingrich recently had this to say: “Iranian-Americans have contributed much to America since they arrived in the last several decades. We are proud of your heritage and of the added strength you have brought to our communities nationwide”. (Psyche! Opposite Day! In 1995 Gingrich declared that Iran was “the most dangerous country in the world” and “a permanent, long-term threat to civilized life on this planet.” Ol’ Gingy was the one who spearheaded Congress passing the $18 million covert action authorization bill for the CIA to go buckwwild in Iran and some day dethrone the ruling clergy.)

Love? Hate? It is hard to tell. But the key to understanding Iranian sentiment is the same logic as flipping coins: Heads OR Tails. One side or another—one toss goes one way, then the next toss maybe the other, over and over—but the coin will never, ever land on its edge. If it does, DO NOT TRUST THE COIN.

Q: Okay, I’m trying to learn to be one of those who loves Iranians. Are there any cool famous Iranian I can namedrop?

The real question here is are Iranians cool? Cool, remember is different than good, or right. We all know black people are cool, and most may agree, white people aren’t. Brazilians: cool; Canadians: not cool. New Yorkers: cool; West Virginians: not cool. This is a fairly black-and-white science, it seems, except for when it comes to Iranians. Still somewhat, but particularly in the age of irony, I’d argue, many Iranians have helped push Iran on the “it” rather than “shit” list.

Evidenced by my list of bedazzling Irazzles:

CNN’s war correspondent Christiane Amanpour. She’s hot. Okay, hot in that handsome Georgia O’Keefe babe way, but totally hot on the inside for sure. Known for wearing desert combat couture whether in Baghdad or in Atlanta, Amanpour has style. She was tight with JFK Jr. And even fucking Gwyneth said in Vogue last year that if she could be anyone on earth, she’d be Amanpour—Gwyneth called her “punk rock,” probably the only usage of “punk rock” that Gwyneth will ever be allowed to use in her life.

All Iranian cinema art house: Kiarostami, Makhmalbaf, and the gang. No one even knows what to say when an Iranian art film comes out. Brilliant. It’s just all good. Genius, every frame. Acting: so real. Boy, these Iranian must have some pain. So poetic. The shit gets so praised that it’s almost sickening. SO many awesome western critics are riding these banned filmmakers jocks that I have often heard Iranians, with a cool anti-western contrarianism, trying to convince Americans that the movies actually suck, and are boring. Right? Opposite day.

Freddie Mercury aka Farokh Bulsara! Yup. This makes everyone happy. A flaming homosexual, AIDS-casualty glam rock icon who is from one of the most homophobic cultures in history, from a country with the lowest AIDS rate and thus the most severe lack of AIDS education in the world. Daddy is mortified.

And I. I am kinda cool.

Q: Any famous Iranians who suck?

Actually many…
The Ayatollahs: SUCK.

Iranian musicians: last summer in an attempt to do something “culturally relevant” Daddy takes me to an “Axis of Love” concert. These clowns are part of a respected classical ensemble, all doing some culturally conscious world music shit. Terrible. Dates-eating, hookah-bar seeking dreadlocked and henna-ed white liberals swaying and nodding everywhere. Heinous. And what of the new “Persian rap singers?” On the forefront: “Da Ali” who does Tupac hooks in sitar for songs like “Da Akhond Fucker” [translation: “the Islamic Priest Fucker,” which admittedly is kind of awesome.]

Q: What about just so-so Iranians?

In between “it” and “shit,” there’s a lot. Most Iranians, like all of humanity, I think exist in this region. You decide:

Pierre Omidyar, eBay founder. Kinda cool. But also remember, this man has ruined your life, robbed you, made you sell your Prada-best for bus change, got you chastised at work, who the fuck is he? And an Iranian named Pierre? This is the type of guy who will ask me why my nickname isn’t Patricia. Asshole.

Nude “supermodel” Angylina—I don’t know a lot of about this woman, but anyone who does, please send my way. A real enigma. I can’t tell if she does porn or not. Looks like a lot of unavailable swimsuit calendars. She seems to like wearing bikinis paired with construction hats. Fake tits: 90210 Persian. Kinda hot, I guess? But I find the spelling of her name not only boringly uniranian, but somehow nausea-inducing I don’t know how the hell she gets away with this “nude supermodel” schtick, but it seems psychoculturally explainable and somehow… ballsy.

Yasmin Le Bon—ok, a halfie but let’s just say only a real 80’s strumpet fag hag with some Iranian in her would actually think to wed and then stay married to ol Simon.

Soccer player Mohammed Khakpour—decided to stop making goals for Iran and turned tricks on NJ/NY Metrostars team. How much better would it be if this guy was hot?

Bijan Pakzaf, owner of Bijan apparel and fragrances—almost part of opposite day theory. Almost part of 80’s cool. His yellow convertible is always parked outside his Rodeo store. It’s like remember when you heard Rodeo was ritzy? And then you went there and realized it was just gaudy? That’s Bijan. With a front window that features all the names of his well-known clients permanently engraved, The House of Bijan is apparently the only “appointment only” boutique in America. Persian people give his scent out for gifts all the time, but I have never met a woman of Iran who will wear it. Essentially, it smells like dirty geriatric Eastern European whores—like banging Zsa Zsa must equal being buried in a yellow haze of musky Bijanery. But Americans somehow humor this guy like crazy: his perfume bottle is featured in the permanent exhibit collection of the Smithsonian.

Q: But what’s this I hear about your cultural benefactress… Whoopi?!

I am sure in a matter of a few months with the fall sitcom lineup fully cemented, Iranian ancestors everywhere will be turning over in their graves.

Just when you thought “cool” might win, this week NBC and the producers of bullshit some among you must watch like “3rd Rock from the Sun” and “That 70’s Show”, bring you “Whoopi”, the first show in commercial network history to feature a live fucking hoop-jumping, just-happy-to-be-aired Iranian.

Kewl beans, Whoopi. But when this Iranian’s function is to inspire in an eyebrowless asexual sista named Whoopi witticisms like, “Don’t scare the white people”, “Your people scare me, I see two or three of you on a plane and I’m off,” I have some comments for her. First, interesting, sista, cause some of your people scare me and my people and, um, every people. Secondly Whoopi, you ain’t even takin’ planes, ho! Whoopi makes sure to highlight in every bio that she does not even fly, she takes buses cross country. I guess my people have spooked her permanently—it is a true fact that Iranians, unlike black Americans, do not take buses cross country. You can have the buses, girl, and my people will “take” the planes.

In any case, Whoopi’s dancing monkey is Nasim the handyman, played by Iranian-Brit stand-up comedian Omid Djalili. Omid in Farsi means “hope”—opposite day. Nasim makes me truly hopeless. Apparently with him and an ebonics-spewing white-trash wiggerette character, Whoopi hopes she this show will get people talking about “issues.” Issues? Edification from a “woman” named Whoopi? And what do Iranians have to do with “issues?” Iranians seem to be the only Middle Easterners I know who aren’t shitting bricks to defensively work to de-link themselves from 9/11. Iraqi. Afghani, Arab anything. But Iran? O fellow sandniggers of my Aryan Nation, the real threat is not trigger-happy Dubya—the real threat is… the Whoop.

My family’s verdict, I would wager, will be typical of the Iranian masses at large: I hate this Iranian on Whoopi. Daddy—who loves all Iranians, fat people, and funny things—when presented with Omid, says “ I have no idea who the hell he is. There are no Iranian handymans however.” Mother, who regards Whoopi as the completion of the trinity of her favorite-actors-from-favorite-movie along with Demi, and Swayze, on the other hand, declares, “you prove nothing by being hard on Whoopi.” Still when presented with an image of Djalili she is horrified that “a man with such lack of looks” can “make it so big in America.”

“Whatta country!” Haven’t we learned benevolent ethnic people do not save anything? Do you remember Yakov Smirnoff? What do you remember him for? “Whatta country.” Right. Nothing.

Q: But doesn’t this come at an opportune time? Isn’t this good for the image of Iranians?

Yeah, if you live in the land of Care Bears and Rainbow Brite where Yasser Arafat is Betty Spaghetti and Israel is Narnia. Grow the fuck up.

Iran is dangerous. The US is dangerous. Iran has toys, the US has toys. Even.

The “Axis of Evil” image is a hell of a lot more relevant and workable—and hell, I’ll even wager, preferable—than this Whoopi-slave. Give me machine guns and beards and turbans before an Iranian minstrel show please!

Of course, like those sporadic Jan Brady episodes, Axis-of-Evil-forgotten-child Iran may be prepping for her moment in the spotlight. Currently U.S. Central Command reports some contingency plans for war with Iran, but there is “no active discussion” yet. Word has it that Israel plans to bomb the Bushehr nuclear-power plan that hasn’t even finished construction yet. But Israel is on the ball—routes have been mapped on how to destroy it ala Iraq’s Osriaq plant in 1981, which some analysts believe kept Saddam from acquiring the bomb.

Israelis have to be paranoid to survive, we all know that. But then again, Iran has tested 600-mile-range ballistic missiles that can reach Israel and carry nuclear, biological or chemical warheads.

Here’s a conspiracy theory: Saddam has nuclear weapons. Iran, a country known for churning out more nuclear physicists than you can shake a stick at (including my own Dad), has nuclear weapons. Okay? Pass it on.

The liberals say—opposite day!—no way. Way, oh way. Why not. Remember 9/11? The lesson for the new millennium: think the worst, and even then you probably haven’t got it—someone somewhere is thinking something worse. Such is life.

Q: But are you right?

Yes. No. Yes. No. Perhaps I am just as unfit as fucking Nasim, but my global philosophy comes from the culture I assimilated to most wholeheartedly—that of my undergraduate art school rich-bitch education at Sarah Lawrence, where “designer imposter” described the mass persona of the student body more than a fragrance knockoff…back then the old school lured me and many immigrant Valley Girls with a slogan that screamed “special” and yet “like everyone else,” truly a genius pairing in its simultaneous optimism and pessimism: “You are different and so are we.”

If we can adopt that lil function machine logic to Iranian geo-political-moral-positioning, this is all I can conclude: “You are evil and so are we.”

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