As I watched Bourdain go through the process of sampling foods in Iran that I have grown up eating in America, I didn’t necessarily feel a sense of pride. After all, I AM AN AMERICAN. Then I watched him take a bite into Iranian takeout pizza which was served with ketchup and I seemed to better understand where my love for the great American condiment comes from (“I eat my ketchup with ketchup”). That scene also reminded me of my paternal grandmother’s first few attempts at making pasta, which she fed to me and my two younger siblings with ketchup! I didn’t understand it then, nor did I detest it, but somehow tonight it all seemed to make more sense. Maman Rachel started serving pasta with marinara sauce after that, but I made sure her homemade french fries were also present on Italian night ;).
The loyalty of an Iranian is unparalleled. But their loyalty will forever lie with “Vatan” (homeland). And Iran’s general population knows not the feeling of rejection, abandonment, years of blood, sweat and tears crippling right before their very eyes. That’s the experience my parents’ families had. And it’s precisely the experience that I know will be etched onto my heart in the coming days, months, and years. Especially with midterms just two days away (Nov. 4) and the potentially pivotal presidential election of 2016 drawing near.
Yet, as I look at the faces of the men, women and children on the television screen in front of me, listening to their voices crying out in unison “Ay delaam” (oh my heart), my own heart is filled with gratitude to my parents for providing me with the best of both cultures and worlds (Del is one of my nicknames). Yet it hardens as I recall the history behind my own story as a first-generation American whose parents were born in Iran and were forced to flee their homeland in search of a new one. The Iran of today is not the Iran of the Shah…nor is it the Iran of Cyrus the Great.
America is now Albert and Anita’s (dad and mom’s) “vatan.” It has been for the last 40+ years.
My parents chose the United States of America as their new home. They underwent a legal process to arrive in the States and became U.S. citizens soon after.
The chelo kabbab, deezee, beryani, polo, khoresht, and so many other delectable and palatable dishes served on screen were presented in portions that could feed an army twice over; after all, the culture of hospitality is no stranger to the people of Iran. But at the end of the day, it is Iran’s interests that lie at the heart of the Iranian people from start to finish; not America, nor American interests. And at the end of the day, the only way America can carry out its innate responsibility to defend its own people before it takes on its promise to aid the other nations of the world, is through exceptionalism… AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM. What the world needs is another Reagan of our time. Fifty years later, we are faced with another “Time for Choosing.”
No matter how we’d like to paint it, we can’t simply “put politics aside.” This is not the time nor the place to do so. Come November 4, we will all be faced with a choice and must prepare again for a potentially-pivotal election in 2016. Choose America. And choose someone who has America and American exceptionalism at their core. For a strong America leads to a stronger world.