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Letter Box


A letter from an alumnus about America, the oppressed

November 15, 2001

In a time when America’s heavy hand seems to be mixed up in just about everybody’s business, and for most people in the world, the very name of our nation either makes their blood boil with anger or makes their mouth water with lust, there is a voice, all too often drowned out by a barrage of propaganda, that may catch most Americans off-guard: Whatever the American government might be, the citizens of America, myself included, are among the most oppressed people on the face of the earth. Is it possible that a people with among the highest per capita income and standard of living, with the money and power to defend their interests at home and abroad, the producers of cutting-edge technology and the forerunners in every academic discipline — in short, the masters of the new world order — can be oppressed to a superlative degree? I answer with an unequivocal yes. Two formidable forces have victimized the American people: First, a government that has stripped them of their humanity while hiding behind a rhetoric of freedom and democracy; and second, a free market that will stop at nothing to make a profit.

As long as I lived within the U.S., I was blind to many of the realities of the U.S.’s foreign and domestic policies. From the outside, the picture is a little clearer. Bolstered by a seductive rhetoric of ensuring freedom and democracy for all people, the U.S. has become a worthy successor to the British Empire out of which it was born. At its debut in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it established itself as a destroyer of civilizations and mass-murderer of the first rank. After tasting its first blood, it began strategically provoking wars in places where it needed to build military bases or establish pipelines or canal access. Where a particular government presented an obstacle to its interests, the U.S. cleanly staged a coup and instated a new government that would obsequiously cooperate. Time and again, in Central America, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and the Balkans, the U.S. government has directly or indirectly sullied your hands and my hands with the blood of millions of innocent people. History bears witness that the government has betrayed the trust that we placed in it by making us unknowing partners in its crimes.

On the home front, we think that this government is for the people, by the people, etc. However, the election process, by means of the Electoral College, deprives us of a direct say in our government. As a consequence, this government that is only loosely accountable to its electorate is able to pass legislation (such as the recent "anti-terrorism" laws) that blatantly and openly strip certain citizens of their constitutional rights. This being the case, how can the U.S. claim to be the defender of freedom and democracy when its own people are denied a direct say in their government and are stripped of their "inalienable" rights?

An analysis of America’s social situation paints a similarly disparaging picture. Today’s youth are truly a lost generation. Their parents are overworked, trying to keep up with an ever-increasing cost of living. As a result, their children do not receive the guidance and nurturing they must have to develop healthily. Children receive their moral training from the media and from their friends — tantamount to the blind leading the blind. They are bored because they have not been taught how to spend their time. They have not been shown the purpose of life. So they search on their own, and the only parent they find who is willing to teach them is some clothing company or sitcom or band whose sole goal is to seduce another customer into helping them become billionaires. If they haven’t been totally ruined by the time they finish high school, when they go off to college — because they have not received enough guidance from those two people who were supposed to be their parents — they will likely fall prey to one of society’s many other traps: sexual profligacy, drug addiction, atheism, or worse — an attitude of "I don’t care."

Sadly enough, their parents are not much better off. In western society, women have been stripped of their femininity. They can no longer be women, but must pretend to be men — a change brought on by the industrial revolution. At the turn of the century, factory owners needed cheap labor, so they enticed women into leaving their homes. In the name of equal rights, they broke up the family structure and stripped women of the power they wielded in their homes, which had been the very glue that had held society together. Today, the only piece of womanhood left intact is her sexuality, and that too has been misused and corrupted. A woman must relinquish her chastity if she wants to succeed in this new realm. She must make herself sexually attractive in order to land a job. So dress codes become more and more accommodating, and with it, skirts become shorter and shorter, bust lines, lower and lower. The consequence of all this is shattering. Adulterous affairs abound, marriages fail, women become commodities whose worth is based on their sexual appeal, and that same woman who used to be a true lifetime companion to her husband, the queen of her house, the backbone of society, is now nothing more than a sex object whose worth fades with her beauty.

In this momentous role change, men have also suffered. Advertisers have taken full advantage of men’s natural lust for women. They are bombarded everywhere they look with provocative models with perfect bodies and skimpy clothes. You can’t read your local daily without seeing the underwear ads. You can’t drive down the freeway without being assaulted by a CK or Victoria’s Secret ad. No movie is considered worth seeing unless it has the requisite sex scenes, which year after year become increasingly pornographic. When a man is surrounded by images of women with perfect bodies, of course, his own wife begins to seem a little plain (since she probably hasn’t received the implants or the airbrushing that the others got). As a result marriages fail and families break apart — another generation is lost.

The American people have been victimized on the international scene and the domestic front, and they are suffering. The crimes committed against them have been perpetrated by a government that claims to rule according to the will of the people, but acts with a will of its own, for purposes not yet clear. A carefully controlled media skillfully steers public opinion so that the government can act recklessly with total impunity. The government’s partner in crime is a consumer industry that is consuming our people. In order to market their products, companies appeal to our most animal desires. They strike unscrupulously below the belt, seducing us to buy more and more. These two together have destroyed the moral fabric of American society, and with it the ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

So why is it that Americans, being so oppressed, are so detested by most of the world? I can answer on behalf of one nation among whom I have been living for the past year. Each week after Friday prayers, Muslims across Iran chant "Death to America, Death to Israel." They burn American flags and effigies of Uncle Sam. When I first heard these furious chants, I was as disgusted as you probably are right now. But when I learned of what this country has been through in the past century, I could not help but to empathize with them.

America set up a puppet monarch here much like we set up Saddam Hussein in Iraq. The Shah was a despot with a hatred for Islam. But since he served U.S. interests — or someone’s definition thereof — we were willing to overlook this minor detail. When the people of Iran realized that the Shah was selling out to the U.S., they spoke out. He crushed the demonstrations, massacred thousands, and closed the seminaries in Qum, where I am currently studying. Yet America continued to support him carte blanche.

It was then that Ayatullah Khomeini spoke out. He was one of Islam’s greatest figures whom Americans, including many Muslims, have totally misunderstood (I would guess many Americans would not hesitate mentioning Khomeini and Osama bin Laden in the same breath, which is like comparing the Pope to Jimmy Swaggart). He showed his people that they had a choice. He exposed the U.S.’s role in causing their suffering, and showed them that Islam was the solution to their problems. By 1979, the Shah had fled to the U.S. and an Islamic government had been established in Iran, yet the U.S. was not willing to back down. This new government had not even organized an army when the U.S. instigated what would end up being an eight-year war of entrenchment between Iran and Iraq. 800,000 deaths later, the war ended, international sanctions continued, and Iran proved to the world that one does not have to sell out the U.S. in order to be happy.

After all these years, Iran has maintained its political integrity, and shows no signs of deferring to continued U.S. pressures. As a last resort, America has waged a second war on this country using the same techniques it used on its own people: Consumerism. Through an uncontrolled Internet, illegally imported pornographic films, and satellite-transmitted TV programming, they have begun to eat away at the minds of young people here just as they did at home. Many youth are taking the bait. They don’t realize that behind the glitter, Americans are really suffering. But they are gradually beginning to see more clearly.

A few weeks ago, the remains of 15 soldiers were recovered from near the Iraqi border. We lined up their coffins after Friday prayers, and after performing the funeral rites among a congregation of several thousand, we buried them in one of the many "gardens of martyrs" reserved for those lost in the war. They chanted, "Death to America, Death to Israel," and burned several U.S. flags. In the words of the Iranian people, "we mean Death to the American government. As for the people, they are no different than us." They see in the American people the same suffering they themselves escaped from 21 years ago. Now when I hear their chants, I can make out in the undertones, "we pray that all people could be free, as we are free."

Rizwan Arastu ’98

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