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I Like teaching… about Iran.

Submitted by W. S. Harrop (Charlottesville, VA)

not easy, yet must

I do like sharing what I know about the one country most Americans prefer to revile. Angry images of Iran, dating to the 1979 hostage crisis, days when I was in college myself, remain largely frozen n the American popular image of Iran.

Some wonder why I’ve stuck with the Iran file all these years. A State Department friend once lamented that Iran was the ultimate “career graveyard,” a thankless task.

He was right. If you get to know Iran really well, you’re liable to be falsely accused of all manner of contagion, of “having gone native.”

Over the past two decades, I’ve been to nearly every corner of Iran. At times I feel I’m still but an Iran novice — until I read what passes for knowledge via the corporate media.

I delight in grappling with Iran’s many paradoxes. A country with a politician brazenly questioning the holocaust simultaneously broadcasts via state TV a popular drama about an Iranian diplomat in Paris who rescued thousands of Jews from the Nazis during WWII. (True story!)

Ah, Iran, never dull.

Yet it’s more than that. I’m also among the small band of serious Iran watchers who are pushing back against the present fever pitch to “hit them before they hit us.”

So I speak before whatever audiences invite me — academic, government, religious, civic, seniors, small reading groups — no matter!

Sometimes I receive modest honorariums, yet more often I don’t. The money to be made will be raked in by those preaching war.
Far too many prominent figures recently accepted hundreds of thousands to shill for a nefarious “terrorist” group. (the Peoples’ Mujahedeen)

I guard my independence. My soul doesn’t go that cheap.

I recently hazarded to return to my alma mater in the Oklahoma heartland, after a 31 year absence….. Oral Roberts University a half century ago was conceived on the ideal of “healing.” Yet during my decades away, the school seemed bound at the dispensationalist hip to ultra hawkish voices on the middle east.

Some of those figures, ministers of the “Gospel,” have been “praying” for the US to bomb Iran. They call it “prophecy.” I call it ill-informed… and dangerous.

I thus had nightmares about going back, of getting ripped apart in a Lion’s Den. Yet I had reasons to believe matters had changed at the beloved school. Solid new leadership at the top.

As I arrived on campus, no less than Senator Rick Santorum was railing away, before enthralled thousands…. I fretted I had made a terrible mistake, that I was wasting my time, that little had changed.

Yet 24 hours later, as I spoke before my 3rd student group, I got the nerve up to invoke a mix of Jefferson, Khatami, and Jesus, as a preface to offering them a different concept of being “pro-life.” As such, I humbly suggested, why not “fight” the tough battles to resolve conflicts short of war, to go into “every person’s world” — with a voice for healing?

I feared I might have pushed the envelope too far…. that I might face silence, or fierce anger.

To my amazement, the students in that large lecture hall erupted with enthused applause. I nearly lost it. In that moment, they did more for me than I could have done for them.

Peace is not yet dead in the American heartland. Therein, my hope, my sense of purpose, renewed. SO@50