Monday, November 17, 2008

A New Era

In the summer of my 12th birthday, when I was still living in Iran, I found the book "Uncle Tom's Cabin" in my father's library. I was curious by what I saw on the cover. I read the introduction and decided that was the next book I was going to read. I knew about the existence of slavery in America, but I didn't know anything about the brutality of it. I started to read the book not knowing what was waiting for me in the lines of the text. Very quickly, I found myself in the midst of a violent, inhumane and unimaginable cruelty. Soon, I was wiping my tears with every line that I read. At times, I had to put the book down and take a break. Finally, by the time I was half way through the book, I decided that I no longer could read this book. What I was reading was unbearable, and I no longer could take it. I put the book back in my father's library and never looked at it again. What I had already read had left a lasting impression on my psyche.

At the age of 19 when I was taking an English As Second Language class at University of Kansas, one day my instructor, a young white woman with red hair, brought to class a tape player and a cassette. She said to the students, "I would like you to listen to something. It is a very important speech given by a famous black American named Dr. Martin Luther King." That was the first time I heard his name. I had no idea who he was and what his speech was going to be about. What we were about to hear was Dr. King's "I have a dream" speech. At the time, my English was good enough to understand the speech. I knew the meaning of most of the words in his speech if not all. The instructor started the tape and for the next 10 minutes, I listened to one of the most powerful speeches I have ever heard. As I listened to the speech, I felt a surge of emotions stirring within me. Soon I had goose bumps on my skin and tears in my eyes. The words, the delivery, the urgency and even the desperation in the voice of Dr. King left a lasting impression on me. I have often remembered that day and the words of that speech have echoed in my mind from time to time.

Through the years of my life in the US, I’ve read a lot about American history, slavery, its abolition and the Civil Rights Movement. I often wondered how a group of people could survive such atrocities. Some of the stories from the depth of slavery speak of unimaginable cruelty. A lot of the footage that exists of the marches of the Civil Rights Movement era, to me, has always seemed like a group of lambs being watched at first and then attacked by a gang of wolves. I often wondered how scared and vulnerable the people participating in those marches must have felt.

I have wondered how a 15th century pope could sanction slavery in the name of Jesus Christ and how a large group of people could for the sake of greed engage in the practice of buying, selling and torturing other human beings. How could one lose his conscience so entirely. Unfortunately, this level of abasement is something that we have seen throughout the human history.

When the news of Obama’s running for presidency came to surface about a year and a half ago, I remember thinking this is impossible. We live in a country where we have institutionalized racism, namely KKK. It wasn’t that long ago that a black man was arrested by white cops for a relatively minor offence and was gang raped by them while in captivity. It wasn’t that long ago that a black man in Texas was dragged by a car for several miles and died as the result. The list goes on…I thought, America will never elect a black president, not in my lifetime. I did not believe the possibility existed until a couple of days before the election when the polls showed Obama leading. And I remembered the words of Dr. King “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” These words echoed in my mind over and over during the days leading to the election. When on the evening of Nov. 4th, I heard the words, “Barack Obama will be the next president of the United States.”, I remembered Dr. King’s words again. I thought, his dream is no longer a dream. Forty-five years after the day he delivered his passionate speech, forty years after he was assassinated, his dream is being realized. I wished he could have been alive to see this day with his own eyes. He would have been seventy-nine years old.

Election of Obama to presidency is a shinning moment in American history. It is a monumental step in eradication of racism, which has been “America’s Most Challenging Issue”. Its culmination is the result of untiring efforts of people like Rosa Park, Dr. King and all the people who continued to struggle for justice even when it seemed futile. It is the result of the efforts of those who did not allow us forget our humanity and inspired us to be better. It is also the result of the efforts of people who listened to the voice of God within themselves and could not ignore the atrocities inflicted on their brethren. It is the result of our common humanity. It is the result of what is good and pure within our hearts. For me, it has confirmed the belief that human beings are inherently noble and the human spirit will prevail the evil that may exist around it.

Friday, November 14, 2008

My first blog

For the last couple of years, I have been wanting to create a blog for myself. I often send emails to friends and family about the things that are on my mind or the things that happen to me or others. I thought having a blog was a good way of communicating and getting feedback. We'll see how it goes. I don't know how often I'm going to write. I don't really have a specific topic to talk about, so it will just be whatever I want to write about at a particular time.

At this point in my life, I feel I'm at the threshold of a new beginning. My life hasn't gone the way that I had expected it to go. Husband, children and the white picket fence didn't happen for me. These were the things that I wanted so desperately. Instead, I am learning to let go of the things I wanted. This process has been difficult and at times painful, but I have come to find strength and contentment in my life and perhaps those are the things I should have always wanted. I have learned to change the definition of happiness for myself and look outside the box. My life's journey has been difficult, but it has been filled with insights and discoveries and for those I am grateful.