Travel to Iran? Only If You Hate America
Rick Steves is a favorite new scapegoat for the Far Right. His crime? He’s traveling in Iran, as a tourist. His theory, according to this column, is that “each journey abroad is micro-scale diplomacy, opening a mind at a time to our common humanity.” He wants to “give collateral damage a face.”
Traitor! Iran is The Enemy! We’re getting ready to obliterate that evil country, and this America-hating tourist is sabotaging our plan. He wants to humanize Iran — to show America that millions of Iranians have the same day-to-day concerns, hopes and fears that the rest of us have.
This will wreck everything. It’s much easier to bomb people if we think they’re just a bunch of one-dimensional zealots and peasants. It also helps that most Americans have no idea where the hell Iran even is. Let’s see, I think you go to Europe — wherever that is — and hang a right. Or is that Hawaii? Whatever. Those furrin countries are all the same.
Here are two examples of the enlightened responses Rick Steves has gotten:
“Sounds like a fun trip. See if you can interview the Iranians coming back from Iraq. Get a count of the American soldiers they have killed.”
“Perhaps they will take you on a tour of a terrorist training facility or show you the place they kept the hostages while Carter was president.”
As you can see from Steves’ blog and Danny Westneat’s column, Steves is pretty much describing what he sees, whether it’s complimentary or not. That’s what travel is supposed to be about. You go to one place and the people suck but there’s some interesting architecture. Go to another place and the people are friendly but the scenery is too flat and desolate. Etc.
Whatever you think of a place you’ve visited, it’s always a part of you. It’s a 3-dimensional place full of real people.
For me, Iran will always be humanized because I worked there for about ten months in 1976-77. I didn’t like it. Out of all the countries in Europe and Asia that I’ve been to, Iran is the only country where I just flat-out didn’t like most of the people. Nothing against them — that was just my reaction, my interpretation, for whatever reason. Or to paraphrase George Costanza: “It wasn’t them, it was me.”
But after I came back to the states, Iran was a place I’d been. It was humanized. Whenever Iran made the news (the Shah losing his iron grip on the country, Khomeini taking over, the hostage crisis), I could relate. Hundreds of personal memories and recollections would come flooding back.
In late 1978 I wrote an article for a local weekly “underground” paper, describing my personal impressions of Iran. The paper wouldn’t print it because they thought it was too negative; it might offend the hundreds of Iranian college students in the area.
cross-posted at Bring It On!