When Home Is Many Places

A scene from the movie, ARGO, a Warner Bros. presentation

What do you do when you are caught between the places that identify you? Saideh Jamshidi, one of our global female bloggers, writes here about the trap this can become for immigrants. Steve@chicagoistheworld.org



By Saideh Jamshidi


Everyone was asking whether I had seen Argo, a movie based on a declassified document published in 2007. The documents and movie told the story of Tony Mendez, a CIA operative, led the rescue of six US diplomats from Tehran, Iran, during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. This Hollywood thriller was directed by and starred Ben Affleck.

I got tired of the same response I gave to friends and colleagues: “No.”

After a while, I decided that I had to remedy the situation.

Mondays are usually fatal days for me. The news cycle is lethargically slow, there is so much to catch up on, and there aren’t many fascinating discussions happening within the community of foreign politics devotees.

Therefore, the first Monday of February seemed like a good day to watch Argo. I had an AMC ticket sent out to me many months ago. I had no reason to delay.

Inside the large and dark theater, there were four people, including myself. I was the only semi-American in our small group and probably many others, who experienced the hostage crisis as a little kid as it really happened and without Hollywood’s glamour.

I say I am semi-American because you know how we categorize people in this country. We call different people African-American, or Iranian-American, or Jewish-American. No one is really American-American other than those who were born here of Anglo Saxon heritage. But even then the hyphens can apply.

While watching the movie, a particular question hung on a thin wire of a gray vein in my brain—a 500-pound question that seemed to grow heavier by the moment. I wondered: why didn’t the revolutionaries take Brits or Austrians or Canadians as hostages? Why only Americans?

I knew the answer. A short answer to this question is that Americans are responsible for the historic political abortion of Iranians.

Let me give you an illustration to explain.

Let’s imagine that a first-time expectant mother is getting closer and closer to her due date. Her child is the “most wanted” child. She and her husband had overcome medical obstacles and even a fear of impotency for several years until they successfully became pregnant. Things were moving predictably and smoothly until their fate changed forever within a very brief period of time. One night, a group of strangers barge into the house, violently rip the mother’s belly open, abort the baby, and then let both bleed to death. They handcuff the father, beat him, and threaten him. They later take the house as their own and start living in it.

Now, who are these people in real life?

The pregnant mother is Mohammad Mosaddeq, Iran’s popular Prime Minister in 1953.

The baby inside the mother’s womb is Iran’s democracy.

The father is Iran.

The strangers are the Americans.

And now here is the real story:

The CIA, with the help of the intelligence agencies of the United Kingdom, orchestrated an operation on August 19, 1953 that caused the overthrow of the first democratically elected government in the Middle East and its head of government, Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq.  By conducting the coup, Americans supported the Shah to establish his authoritarian regime. In return, Americans enjoyed unlimited access to Iran’s oil reserves and resources.

Iranians never forgot the conspiracy, and they never forgave their puppet-like leader.

In 2000, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright directly apologized for the US role in orchestrating the overthrow of Mosaddeq, and for the US backing of the Shah and Iraq in its war against Iran.

Sitting in that theater, I wondered again why Americans have been so angry at Iranians for creating the hostage crisis. I think Iran was the only country in the world that gave Americans a big, righteous middle finger—a nice big “F- you back!”

The kind of humiliation and pain the Americans suffered during the hostage crisis was also immeasurable. As you may see in the movie, Americans set fire to Iran’s flag and were unkind towards Iranians living in the US.

The political matters between Iran and the United State are still unsolvable problems. Sitting inside the AMC’s spacious, dark and almost empty room, I wondered: who is really screwing whom? And who is enjoying it more?

I can definitely say that I enjoyed “Argo,” for its honest look, excellent acting, and cinematography. The movie relies on the loaded feelings of different scenes rather than dialogue alone. Although skeptical about their activities inside the U.S. embassy and the level of their engagements with the U.S. conspiracy in Iran, I only desired those six Americans to be out.

Given the circumstances, I often have a strange amalgamation of feelings when I have to defend those two countries I love. I am torn apart between defending my adapted country and my home country, especially now that the U.S. and Iran are at undeclared war against each other. I wish it was easy for me to slip across borders, not to belong to anyone, or any nation.


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