23 October 2012

I'm Reading - Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

Reading Lolita in Tehran is one of those books that whenever I see it I think, "Wow, I bet that's really interesting. I'm going to read that one of these days." Well, these days are here. And it is interesting, but even more impactful than that, I'm finding it more than a little bit scary. It's an insider's look at the evolution of a culture once known for the progressive roles that women played to their subjugation to a totalitarian regime.

So how does half the population lose their civil rights...their humanity...themselves? Slowly, innocently. "Mr. Bahri could not understand why we were making such a fuss over a piece of cloth,"1 in reference to one man's bafflement over Prof. Nafisi's refusal to wear a veil while teaching. Not long before she was expelled from the university, Nafisi reflects, "for a few months I had seen it coming, but I think it was that day, after I left Mr. Bahri and his friend, that it first hit me how irrelevant I had become."2 Nafisi goes on the relate that "Because of women's overwhelming objection to the laws, the government enforced the new rule first in the workplaces and later in shops, which were forbidden from transacting with unveiled women."3

"The problem for me was that I had lost all concept of terms such as home, service and country."4 Being a very active member of the Daughters of the American Revolution whose motto is "God, Home and Country," this is the sentence that made me afraid, for me, my fellow Daughters and for my country. I cannot conceive of losing the meaning of these words.

Could it happen here? Have you been to the airport lately? How many times have you been searched, felt violated, and been told "well if you have nothing to hide, what's the big deal?" Are you afraid yet? ... You should be. I no longer fly. My excuse is that I'm under doctor's orders. The reality is that I find airport operations offensive, stressful, even degrading. So why do I use an excuse? I've found that it upsets people when I tell them I won't condone the behavior of those who infringe on my constitutional rights. It's not a little thing and it's not ok. Am I caving to the pressure? By hiding behind medical advice, have I now become a part of the problem? Will we be able to show the same courage to stand for what is right that our forefathers did during the American Revolution?

1Nafisi, Azar, Readling Lolita in Tehran, (New York: Random House, 2003), p. 164.
2Ibid, p. 165.
3Ibid, p. 167.
4Ibid, p. 169.

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