Iranian vs. American Children


Rejecting Old Men’s Wars

by Johnny Punish

Recently, I received an article posted in the New York Times from a young man who just wanted to share with me that Iranians are people too! It was called “How Young Iranians View America“.  He asked me to re-post it for our readers. Well after I read it in full, it occurred to me that people are people, no matter where they live. I mean, here you read it, and then let’s talk.

How Young Iranians View America

By Carol Giacomo

ISFAHAN, Iran — It’s not hard for an American to draw a crowd in Iran. Just speak English.
That’s how I ended up in a heated hour-long debate this week at this ancient city’s Iman Mosque. I stopped to interview three male students from the local university about their lives in today’s Iran and their hopes for the future. They were visiting the mosque — begun in 1612 during the reign of Abbas I, the shah of Persia — on a class trip.

Before long, we were surrounded by about two dozen of their friends, who listened quietly at first but grew increasingly animated, gesturing for emphasis, talking over each other, and jockeying to be heard. They were all in their early twenties.

While most only knew snippets of English, they could follow the conversation through my Farsi-speaking interpreter, Roya Saadat. And they all had something to say. Many of them were apprehensive about the future.

Mohammed, 21, who like the others was reluctant to have his last name published, is studying medical engineering and wonders whether he will find a job making medical devices after graduation. It is a reasonable concern: Each year, some 1.2 million Iranian youths enter a job market that is unable to meet their needs. Unofficially, unemployment is estimated at over 50% for young people.

Hamed lamented the fact that although many people in his hometown are talented, they cannot rise beyond a certain level because of a lack of education, training and other opportunities.

Like his friends, Hadi, a third student, voted in the June election for President Hassan Rouhani. “He’s the one the country needs now because there are problems — the economy, inflation — I think he can solve,” he said.

The group was most passionate when the conversation turned to the prospects for improved Iranian-American relations.

Probably the toughest challenge was to try to answer why America accuses Iran of terrorism when, as one student phrased it, America has been involved in wars and violence “all over the world.” We went at it for a while, trying to understand where each was coming from. But with our language differences and our limited time, it was impossible to find much common ground on a subject at once nuanced and volatile.

Neither did we reach closure on another student’s charge that the United States “has its hands on the throat of Iran and doesn’t let us make development and also imposes a war on poor nations.”

But overall, the attitudes expressed about America were remarkably positive. “In science and technology the United States is best and no one can deny that, but culturally it’s so different from us,” including on the concepts of heaven and hell, Hamed said. But he concluded that Americans “help people a lot so they can’t go to hell.”

“We love Obama and your country,” another student shouted. Yet another added: “America is very very good.”

This is starkly at odds with the “death to America” chants that protesters, mobilized in the past by anti-American hardliners, have used to taunt the United States since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Seven days into a 10-day visit to Iran, I have found the reception in every quarter — on the street, in government, academia, commercial outlets, and among more enlightened clergy — to be overwhelmingly welcoming.

The debate at the Iman Mosque was eventually broken up by an overzealous policeman who felt compelled to check and double-check my press card and passport. “I’ll see you on Facebook,” one of my more vigorous adversaries called out as he and the other students dispersed.

There is no doubt that many Iranians, especially young Iranians, want to engage with America and are listening to what the country and its leaders have to say. It is an opportunity Washington should not squander.

With Americans recently rejecting war against Syria and with American children increasingly getting fed up with their government’s constant push for wars, the time is right to find a new path forward.

In fact, as you may know, I am advocating a new unified modern Middle East for the 21st century through my new think tank Middle East Union Congress.

After reading the above article, I can’t help but think how much more we have in common with one another as humans and that the antiquated 20th-century dogma and the dogs that still sell it are haunting the halls of power. It is dragging us all down. In short, it sucks!

I mean our children simply don’t want what leaders of today are offering. They want unity, peace, love, and harmony! And of course, they want economic vitality and opportunity with access to resources for all; not just some. Iranians are no different than Israelis or Palestinians or Americans, or Mexicans. We must find a better way forward not just for some of us but for all of us. We need a new vision of the world. Something to consider moving forward.