Tuesday, July 7, 2009

ode to home

I loved Marjane Satrapi's graphic novels Persepolis (I & II), they touched me a in a profound way, educated me about the situation in Iran (which I admit to knowing very little about) and inspired a new found interest in the graphic novel genre.

In a recent Op-Ed piece for the New York Times she wrote:

Six years ago, I went to listen to a man, whom I will not name, in a café in Paris.
He said it had been 24 years since he had been back to Iran, that he had to leave right after the revolution of 1979 for political reasons.
He talked of many things, and he ended by saying: “Once you leave your homeland, you can live anywhere, but I refuse to die anywhere other than Iran — or else my life will have had no meaning.”
His statement touched me very deeply. I’ve thought about what he said, not just understanding him intellectually but feeling his meaning with all my heart. I, too, was convinced that I must die nowhere other than in my country, Iran, or else my life will also be meaningless.
At the time I heard this man speak, it had already been four years since I had been home.
Yes, I call Iran home because no matter how long I live in France, and despite the fact that I feel also French after all these years, to me the word “home” has only one meaning: Iran.
I suppose it’s that way for everyone: Home is the place where one is born and raised.
No matter how much I am in love with Paris and its indescribable beauty, Tehran with all its ugliness will in my eyes forever be the “bride” of all cities around the world.

Although the location of our "homes" are different, she couldn't have put it better. No matter how long I live in Montreal, the west coast will always be "home." And while we are expats for very different reasons, I still identify with the sentiments she expresses. Although it's still the same country, it's a different culture and the ocean, mountains, trees, even the rain, are all home to me. I can find a million beautiful things in this city, or in another, and yet home will always be, ironically, Nanaimo, BC. Loathe it though I may for many reasons, the river, the lagoon, the ocean, the BC Ferries, Arbutus trees are all things that I associate with home. Even in our debates about moving out of the city, I find that many of criteria I claim to need in terms of creating a space/location called home, echo back to these things. Montreal, with all of the things I love so much, will never offer me the fresh bodies of water that I crave swimming in, nor oceans that I can sail on, or mountains I can hike and climb. And I guess, even after 9 years, home remains the place I grew up in.

Of course the rest of her article goes on to talk about the current Iranian political situation and is well worth a read...

Death, torture and prison are part of daily life for the youth of Iran. They are not like us, my friends and I at their age; they are not scared. They are not what we were.

They hold hands and scream: “Don’t be afraid! Don’t be afraid! We are together!”
They understand that no one will give them their rights; they must go get them.
They understand that unlike the generation before them — my generation, for whom the dream was to leave Iran — the real dream is not to leave Iran but to fight for it, to free it, to love it and to reconstruct it.

Given that I just wrote a couple of days ago about feeling ashamed of my country, for all of its little and big hypocrisies, her words "shame" me. They make me realize that we, who have so much, bitch about so little and never bother to fight for the things that matter most to us. The fact that 85% of the Iranian population came out to vote when less than 60% of the Canadian population could be bothered... particularly my generation. I know that our options weren't attractive and that many of the issues seem contrived to screw us over, but how do we expect politicians to ever listen to us if we don't stand up to make our voices heard? How do we expect to get detailed, accurate, and reliable media coverage of the issues that are pertinent to us if we don't even pay attention in the first place. Our apathy, in the face of all the things we have and take for granted, is disconcerting (and dare I say it: disgusting) when we look at the challenges that other nations and groups face.

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