Saturday, June 20, 2009

Death to Potatoes

In case you haven't heard, there was a disputed election in Iran. I won't pretend to be an expert because that's just stupid.

But I do try to understand what I don't understand. Last year, during our own long and heated election debates, I blogged about McCain and Clinton's cavalier attitude towards war with Iran. The candidates' flippant remarks played to the public belief which, for as long as I can remember, is that the people of Iran hate America.

Oh, where did we get that idea? In recent memory, we got the fear-mongering from Bush who put Iran in an "axis of evil" even though there was no axis. But even long before that, we heard the Iranian chants of "Death to America." I always wondered exactly what the people meant by that.

Hooman Madj, author of The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: The Paradox of Modern Iran, says it doesn't mean they want to kill us. In fact, during the recent campaign, Iranians also shouted "death to potatoes":

(YouTube video)

So the phrase really kind of means "down with America" which doesn't sound nearly as threatening. Sometimes history is shaped by things lost in translation.

But right now, I don't think much is being lost in translation. It's very clear that Iranians are willing to die for freedom and democracy. And people who share our basic values probably don't want to kill us.


pinkpackrat said...

Wonderful post. I'm with you all the way. Death to Potatoes:-)

Trung said...

i find it interesting how the media and the us government suddenly care that so many iranians are dying. why do they not evoke the same kind of sympathy for the genocide that's happening over in darfur? just some things to ponder as you eat those potatoes!

Kristen said...

Pinkpackrat, thanks!

Trung, I think a more analogous question is why the media hasn't covered other disputed elections even in countries we consider our allies.

By the way, sorry that video link is no longer available. It was a very good interview. I'll see if I can find another link.

Trung said...

kristen, ah yes, that is indeed a good question to be asked!