Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Immigrant

I went to the Denver Art Museum last weekend. I hadn’t been there in about two years. The floor that had artifacts from Asia had quite a number of items from Iran. That surprised me. The oldest piece of relic that I saw in the museum was from 3500 B.C. and it was from Iran.

The floor that had the contemporary art had two sculptures that touched me. One was called something like “Psycho Shirley Temple”. I don’t remember the name of the artist. The sculpture was a porcelain doll standing in a crib with a devilish smile on her face and frizzy, messed up hair. All around it in the crib and on the floor were torn up toys, baby blankets and clothes. It was a huge mess. The description said something like, “She is angry and aggressive, but she is very vulnerable, because she is made of porcelain.” I thought that was something that many people can identify with. A lot of people carry with them the pain of what life has dealt them feeling vulnerable and at the same time protective of oneself. I liked the way that the message was conveyed. It was creative and the visual imagery was powerful.

The second sculpture moved me to the core of my being. It was done by a Cuban born American named Enrique Martinez Celaya. The roughly made sculpture was the naked body of a man where both legs were cut off below the knee and instead two pieces of metal were placed where the rest of the legs should have been. One of the hands was also cut off at the wrist. I looked at it with confusion until I saw the description next to it. It simply said, “The Immigrant.” I felt a tightness in the pit of my stomach and tears came to my eyes. Suddenly, I had the urge to find a quiet place to sob. I walked around for the next thirty minutes holding back my tears. I understood the symbolism clearly.

As an immigrant from Iran living in the States, I have felt at times that there were parts of me that were missing. During the early years, I struggled with English and was not able to express myself. I felt like half of a person at times. I remember my struggles with the new culture and my identity. I felt lost not knowing how to deal with different situations. Perceptions and the meaning of right and wrong were so different here from where I had come from. I missed my home, my family and friends terribly, but due to the political situation and persecution of the Baha’is, people of my religion, I couldn’t go back to Iran. I missed my language, my music, the street where I lived, my house, my school, smell of the bakery on my way to school. I missed the lilac tree in our yard, the grapevine that my father had planted, the view of the sunset from my bedroom window, the quiet way that it rained in fall, the mountains that I used to hike and so much more. I missed the smell of burnt wood that was always in the air when we visited my mother’s ancestral village. I missed the schoolboy who was in love with me. I had left behind so much. I had given up so much. I longed for so much. I was lost in an unfamiliar culture. Sometimes it felt like I had lost a limb.

As difficult as the early years were for me, they were a thousand times more difficult for my parents. They were so much older and learning English was extremely difficult for them. They had lost all that they had worked for all their lives. They were living in a culture that not only was different than theirs, but in many ways it was the opposite of theirs. They had been intelligent, accomplished and prosperous people back home, but here they were reduced to people who could not talk and didn’t know anything about how to live in the new country. They looked odd and misplaced. Life’s misfortunes had forced them to leave home. They lived in sorrow and poverty with a desperate longing for the past. Due to language problems, they depended on me for everything. The loss of their abilities was as though they had lost their limbs like the sculpture.

It is difficult to be a first generation immigrant to any country. Our story is not uncommon. The transitions, adjustments and feelings of loss and disconnect are experienced by many who have been forced to leave their homes. It is the second generation that reaps the benefits of the new country and becomes totally integrated in the adopted culture.

After many years of life in the States, learning the English language and adjusting to the culture, I no longer feel like I have a missing limb. At this point in my life, I’m happy to be living in the U.S. although I’m not sure if I want to live here forever. It isn’t that I want to live in Iran, because that is not where I want to be anymore. It is just that I want to live where I feel I belong. I live with the feeling that I don’t entirely belong to any particular place. I find what I am, often to be so different from what other people are. I have influences of multiple cultures and ideologies within me. I have taken what I have liked from each and in the process have become someone who doesn’t entirely fit in any culture. I’m not dissatisfied with it. It is just the way it is.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

I finally saw Avatar.

I finally saw Avatar. It was better than I had expected. There were obvious and clear parallels between the story and the Bush era war on terror mentality, lingo and actions. The same exact words were used. No subtleties were intended here, that made it funny. Also, there were parallels between the treatment of Native Americans and the aliens in this movie as well as other colonized nations in the world. The word savages was used a good number of times among other similarities. I liked the world and life of the aliens. It was beautiful, holistic and complete within itself. They had done a good job in creating a different kind of life and reality. The movie was visually amazing. And the love story brought tears to my eyes. I think, I'm liking James Cameron. He is not bad looking for an old guy either!

One of my followers who reads everything I write told me today that he thought this entry was terrible. He said that I had reduced myself to writing the obvious about some blockbuster movie. I totally agree with him on this. I told him, I was writing this on FaceBook, but I ran out of the allowed number of characters to write, so I posted it here for my FaceBook friends. My next entry will have more depth. I will reach into the depth of my soul to write my next post! That might be scary! :)