An Open Letter to the Iranian People

An Open Letter to the Iranian People

Dear People of Iran,

The American and Iranian governments are negotiating to monitor nuclear development in Iran, in exchange for lifting sanctions, which will reduce the threat of war. I want you to know that I, a taxpaying, voting, American citizen, am absolutely opposed to any war with your nation. I join the vast majority of Americans, who support the dialogue of peace and diplomacy between our governments.

President George W. Bush lied to us to get us to invade Iraq. We will not be fooled again. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined Bush in lying to us. Recently, he came into our house uninvited to tell us that Iran is just like ISIS/Daesh and to undermine our president’s pursuit of diplomacy. This was a crazy thing to say, because Iran is fighting ISIS/Daesh. His stunt was deeply offensive to us.

Even more insulting was new Senator Tom Cotton’s letter to your government saying that the next president might not honor any peace agreement. He undermined our president, violated protocol, and questioned the value of America’s international commitments. President Barack Obama was elected with 69.5 million votes. Tom Cotton was elected with fewer than 500,000 votes in a very rural state. He does not speak for the American people. He speaks for weapons contractors and other warmongering lobbies who paid for his campaign. He has more in common with extremist mullahs in Iran than with the American people.

The Iranian people admire Americans and aspire to their perception of American freedom. As an English teacher, it has been my pleasure to teach a number of Iranian students in Washington, D.C. The Iranians I have taught have been some of the most talented, intellectual and passionate students. My Iranian students taught me that most Iranian people admire American culture and people. I found this hard to believe at first, since there is so much tension between our governments. But polls show that Iranians have a more positive view of Americans than even many US allies. And the Iranian people support diplomatic relations with the US.

The American people also admire aspects of Iranian culture, even though they often don’t realize it, because it is so misrepresented in our media. The bestselling poet in the United States is Rumi, one of the greatest Persian poets. Some have observed that Rumi is so popular with Americans because his poetry reflects the work of the great American poet, Walt Whitman. Whitman, the transcendentalist, and Rumi, the Sufi mystic, both wrote extensively on the theme of the interconnection between the self and the world.

rumi and whitman

Both poets were revolutionaries, like the cultures they represent. We Americans built our nation on democratic revolution against colonialism. Your current Republic was founded in a student revolution, unfortunately hijacked by religious extremists. But I know you, Iranian people, are greater than that. In 2009, when it was clear that the election had been stolen, you took to the streets and resisted your government’s corruption. I know that, in Iran, it is extremely dangerous to organize and protest, but this did not stop you. Though your democratic Green Revolution was crushed, this showed the world the true spirit of the Iranian people. I salute your courage, and the sacrifice of activists like Neda Agha-Soltan, who died protesting the government.

Though this movement was beaten down, I believe it is the future of your country. Iran has one of the youngest populations in the world. Roughly two-thirds of Iranians are under the age of 35. You have forced your government to accept reformers, and resist its overbearing influence in myriad little ways, such as installing satellite dishes to receive foreign TV faster than the police can confiscate them. I challenge my government to peacefully allow you to change yours.

Walt Whitman was a medic during the American Civil War. The experience made him deeply skeptical of war. He wrote: “…was one side so brave? the other was equally brave…” Today, we Americans reject a war that would benefit no one. Our nations have a historic chance to reduce 35 years of tension. But we civilians should also reach out to each other and work together to moderate our governments, to resist their temptations to aggression. Our people are not so different. As Rumi wrote: “Out beyond ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing, there is a field. I will meet you there.”

Marc Belisle
An American teacher and writer

Images via Creative Commons.

Marc Belisle is the Reverb Press World Affairs Editor. He is a writer, activist and teacher. He has a Master’s degree in International Conflict Analysis from the Brussels School of International Studies. READ MORE BY MARC.

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Marc Belisle is the Reverb Press World Affairs Editor. He is a writer, activist and teacher. He has a Master’s degree in International Conflict Analysis from the Brussels School of International Studies. READ MORE BY MARC.

ReverbPress Mobile Apps ReverbPress iOS App ReverbPress Android App ReverbPress App