Through the Looking Glass

Throughout the semester we’ve been presented with authors that are well practiced in presenting situations they way they are, putting aside bias and emotion as best as possible.  Shirin Ebadi is no exception. She admits when she’s naïve and expects the hostages to be released, simply because it’s the law. She admits when she’s stubborn, refusing to do work as her only stand against being demoted to a desk clerk. She admits what she doesn’t know, that she was one of the only students uninformed about politics at law school. And she’s honest. There are some things that are difficult to understand, like Leila’s family having to sell their life’s earnings and still not have enough to have her rapists executed; like having to embarrassingly call her mother at age 45 to go skiing. But she doesn’t shy away from the issues she has with her country. She explains them for what they are and still remains a loyal Iranian. I find myself in these instances, sometimes, subconsciously judging the laws and these people who live under the government. They not only endure this lifestyle but some actually believe in it. And when that happens I immediately try to find common ground again to narrow the differences between the two cultures. Of course it’s their religion and it’s how they are raised. But there’s also the instance of the revolution.

Ebadi again demonstrates her ability to be honest with herself and with others. She realized in retrospect how crazy it was for the country to be so caught up with the revolution. That she allowed herself to be caught up in it. She paralleled it to a leader who thought during a time of chaos would be given a fair trial. Sometimes you expect things in the heat of a moment that simply won’t happen. Looking at this as someone else’s experience, it’s easy to look in retrospect and understand the mistakes and assumptions that were made. But then I thought of the aftermath of September 11, 2001. The country was overwhelming patriotic, proud of our ideals for tolerance democracy. The entire country was hyped up and united behind this one feeling. And when our president talked about nuclear weapons and war, we were 100% behind it. Very few asked what the real facts were, what the proof was, if it made sense. And now ten years later we find ourselves stuck. Allegiance to your country can be such a powerful thing, even if you’re educated and informed. And just as we had lost trust in Iraq after the terrorist attacks, the Iranians lost trust in us. Her question to end chapter 5 was a great one, if another country sold weapons to nations fighting against us, and then said they wanted to help us fight for liberty… would you believe them?

The differences between these cultures can seem really drastic at times. I had an especially hard time reading about Soraya, the woman trying to visit her mom, and Leila Fathi. But there are almost always commonalities to the reasons and motives of the way a human acts, and hearing her stories and seeing those connections to a country so vastly different has been really interesting.

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