This I Believe

Shirin - Madison, Connecticut
Entered on October 1, 2006
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: citizenship

This I Believe: A Precious Sacrifice

Can a nationality be the sole component of a person? No; a person is more than a country or a flag of waving colors. For me, my nationality constitutes a giant sector in the pie graph that is Me. But in these turbulent times, I ask myself, is my nationality worth the sacrifice? Is it worth the question that I get asked, would you rather be an Iranian or an American? Is it worth the feeling of bottomless dread that I feel every time I step up to the airport counter, knowing that my passport divulges a certain fact about me that leads to 20 minutes of checking and double checking my family’s activities, terrorist or not? I admit, life would be easier for me if Iran was just another country on the map, a land of alien mountains and deserts where I would suspect that everyone rides camels and women are oppressed by their husbands. I could listen to the evening news without cringing at the sound of a country being pronounced like a sentence: I-ran. And I could feign ignorance at the question “Isn’t that the place where everyone says Death to America?” Yes, my life would be a simple stroll along a road free of speeding cars. It would consist of an easy assurance of identity, and I would be just as proud to be a pure, undiluted, unhomogenized, 100 % American. But with that sole identity, things would be lost. My tapestry would be unfinished, the threads of precious memories unraveling into nothingness and the spool neglected. I would never know the bitter and heavy taste of Persian tea. I would forget the feeling of a communal family, of eleven people sitting down at the dinner table, which is strewn with rich, aromatic khoreshes and pollos. I would never be able to go to a Tavaso dried fruits store and order badum and gerdoos and receive the gleeful joy of the salesman dropping some extra nuts into my hand to thank me for coming. Even my very name, Shirin, which means sweet would be different. I would be a Becky, an Ally, or maybe a Bridget and, I would not have to face the inherent humiliation of watching people attempt to pronounce my name, only to alter it so I become a Sharon. Life would be so much less troublesome, without suspicious looks, and misconceptions about my vatan or motherland. I believe everything has a price and I suppose that in exchange for this blissful life, I would lose my memories, and worse than that, I would slowly slide down the dangerous slope of ignorance. Ignorance has become a plague that afflicts the most unsuspecting people. I must use my nationality, the most precious gift entrusted to me, to help find a cure.