It has taken 37 years to come to terms with our relationship. And I am still tortured by it.
How strange, the feeling of relief and fear I feel every time I return to your shores? As the plane descends on New England, I am overcome with emotion–love for the deep, dark ocean shoreline, joy at seeing those I love most–but also anxiety. The abrupt, military questioning of your border guards, the suspicious way I am questioned–how I hate that. You are my mother! After all this time…how could you treat me like that?
And this, more than anything, characterizes our relationship. A love/hate relationship. How I love the amnesty you’ve shown the masses coming to the shores, the progress in humanities and sciences, the passion of your people to push forward.
If it weren’t for your violence and lack of humanity, I would never doubt you. But violence is the hallmark of your history–it shaped the borders and still determines the size of the military and prisons around the country. You show no mercy to the poor or the indigent. How I hate that.
But you are my mother–only I can say this. When others utter these words, I am filled with anger. And honestly, I will come home. Because these other places aren’t the paradise I wished for either.
Oh America–do something great again, so I can defend my choice to return to you.
You overwhelm my senses like no country ever has. Tart pomegranate paired with smoky walnut; the vibrancy of your turquoise and maroon art and architecture; the steady beat of a hand drum, contrasting with the strain of a setar– it is so, so beautiful. And the mountains–the mountains! Their mighty presence leaves me in awe.
But I struggle to decipher not only the script of your language but also the cultural script of your people. There are so many contradictions…where to begin? The extremely well-educated women who cook and hand wash dishes until late in the night to please their husbands–YES, their husbands. The friendly people who ask what you want and then ignore the answer and tell you what to do. The poets and film makers who make brilliant art within your borders right before fleeing. The crazy proclamations from your government…I don’t get it.
Yet I feel a strong need to defend you here in the West. They don’t get you here, but for different reasons. They don’t see the people behind the media, the crowds of poor going to an anti-American rally for the free food being offered, the shy old woman who wears the headscarf for privacy, the diversity in your cities, the amazing dance parties behind closed doors.
I am Iranian by marriage and the mother of two American-Iranians. You will always hold a place in my heart–help me show the world how wonderful you can be.