I recently read an article in Foreign Affairs magazine by Akbar Ganji, titled “Who is Ali Khamenei?”. This article gave me very mixed emotions and thoughts. I read through it a number of times, skimmed it a few more and even wrote notes in the margins.
The reader gets a glimpse into the life, policies and mind of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. I do not make it a habit of believing anything U.S.-based media tells me, but I did previously believe that Iran, and its leader, were misguided and cruel. After reading the article, I see a man who is a well-read scholar and who could probably help the United States a great deal.
I learned that Khamenei favors Western literature and compliments the Western culture on its advances in medicine, science and technology. However, he criticizes the United States for being materialistic, blinded by capitalism and for being Islamophobic. This is not a man hell-bent on destroying our country, but a man who might hold some justified critique. Watching every superhero movie ever made has taught me that you can always learn from your opposition.
We have become a society that overall values our possessions over much else. Our country is currently raising a generation that prides itself on owning the newest iPhone, the fastest car and every gaming system ever made. I am not saying that this is inherently bad, but it does paint a horrible picture. We are a country that has countless residents who are homeless, impoverished and hungry, yet we have a quasi-caste system based on the handbag you carry.
Capitalism is something I do not always hold to the highest honor. An increasing frustration is the treatment of huge corporations. We have seen the countless, inexcusable pardons of unethical banking practices. Monsanto gained its own protection act, not because it needed protection, but because it could buy its protection. In the Gilded Age of the United States, capitalism became synonymous with democracy, but now, as car companies move American jobs and face no penalty, it has become tantamount to greed, evil and poverty.
It is completely understandable that any citizen of an Islamic country might hold hostility toward any American of a different faith. There have been hate speeches and protests in our country directed at Islam as a whole. These are normally in response to terror attacks or threats. But the truth that such terrorist activities are not carried out by Islam, but by an extreme perversion of it, appears to be lost on many Americans. Every time a news outlet features a hate-spewing mongrel to talk about “all of Islam” hoping for the collapse and obliteration of the United States, our entire country appears to be a bunch of bigots.
I am a patriotic American, and I sincerely believe that we are the greatest nation on Earth, but I still believe that we have a long way to go to reach our fullest potential. Part of this potential might be reached with ease if we, as a society, a democracy and a nation, can learn to consider the criticisms of our perceived “enemies” as having some truth. We are not the only nation that has a lot of things right, and, therefore, we might have also gotten some things wrong. If we can learn to correct our flaws from our opposition, we might truly become an enlightened country.
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