As I write these words I am in an especially sour temper, a sour temper even fouler than that of the Rev. Khomeini. And I base my bilious humor on even firmer theological grounds -- two solent wisdom teeth have been yanked fro my gums.Let the Holy Man huddle with his mullahs for a month. Never will he come up with a more sacred sanction for his fury.Today the Sermon on the Mount just makes me mad. Thus it is a propitious time to consider the Iranians living in America.
I met my first Iranian while in college. Facing Mecca, he was inconspicuously bowed in prayer on a rugby field and, truth be known, I tripped over him. The catastrophe did not amuse this Iranian student, but it did serve as a point of departure for what turned out to be hundreds of amiable conversations over the next few years. He introduced me to a dozen or so of his countrymen and I must say that, despite the ayatollah's odes to the contrary, these young Iranians were very fine people: intelligent, competent and civilized.
This month, as the barbarities continue in Iran and anger heats up here in the United States, the faces of Iranians whom I knew as students have often loomed before my mind's eye. Where are they and their fellow members of the Iranian intelligentsia now? We know where the Pahlavis are, and we know how they do prosper and smirk at the world: the shah is comfortable and lapping caviar in the cancer ward in a New York hospital, the beautiful Empress Farah, doubtless dining at Four Seasons and shopping madly at various Manhattan citadels of haute couture. And the Pahlavi children -- it must be especially easy for them -- they are the heirs to billions, perhaps trillions, of dollars. They can look forward to decades of happy days.
But what about other educated Iranians? Ex-Prime Minister Bakhtiar tells us that 7,000 Iranians have been murdered since the great religious reawakening. And what of those Iranians in this country? I was accosted by one at one of my rare public appearances some months ago, and it was not a merry experience. My published estimates of the shah and the Rev. Khomeini have not been very respectful, so when this young man introduced himself I readied a yell for the cops. Surprisingly, the fellow merely wanted to express gratitude. He had been studying here in preparation for the day when he would return home to assist his countrymen in the creation of a modern Democratic country. Now he had no home to which he might return.
His forlorn state is not unique. There are in America today Laotians, Cambodians, Vietnamese, various Africans and others. All of whom had their high-minded dreams snatched from them by thugs at home. They are often well-educated and useful citizens, but here they are casualties of history. American is not the land in which they had expected to live. This, of course, is the condition now troubling many thousands of Iranian students in America. Sent here by middle-class parents to prepare for useful lives in a modern society that is now being dismantled by brutes, their lives have taken an unforeseen and tragic turn. Many are without secure sources of income or reliable news from their faraway homes.
Worse still, their promising futures have been destroyed, and they have no way of anticipating what will happen to them. Many are very young and properly unnerved. Some fear for their parents at home. Many live in fear of the lunatics and the opportunists in their midst. Those who had hoped to join men like Bazargan and Bakhtiar in modernizing and liberalizing their government must be in the deepest despair of all. Only the cranks are crowing.
Americans ought not to add to the frights that haunts these poor souls. It is no disservice to the flag for Americans to sympathize with them and to show them friendship. We have lost face in Iran. We may lose lives and property, but our Iranian guests gave lost their country.For Americans to demonstrate on behalf of our government and in opposition to the enormities committed by the Iranian mobs is desirble. And the thought occurs to me that a mob of joggers would constitute a formidable political statement.But to indiscriminately turn upon Iranian students is pigheaded and dishonorable. Considering the provocation, our record has been rather good, but it can be much better. And it is always pleasing to see the gogues who gravely lecture us on the intolerance of Homo Americanus again befooled by the reality of a smiling, generous Yank.
On the other hand, our Iranian guests have some responsibilities. Whatever inspires them to lecture us on our shortcomings, they ought to pipe down. We have heard it all before, and most of the criticism that has been inflicted on us in recent years is simply without merit. For Iranians to demonstrate against our government now is as intolerable as it would have been for Japanese to demonstrate against our government after Pearl Harbor -- and as a close student of the oratory of Sen. George McGovern, I can vividly imagine half a dozen sophistries the Japanese might have adduced in their defense or the canons of logic as flyblown in 1941 as they are today. Those Iraninas who demonstrate against us ought to be shipped back to Iran as undesirable aliens.
For some 30 years anti-Americanism has been the bigotry of much of the earth's intelligentsias. It is unreasoning, ignorant and, if one considers the political forces that it so often sets off, self-destructive. What, for instance, did the anti-Americanism of that miserable blot of a man Sihanouk ever get him?
Bearing in mind the generosity America has shown the world throughout this century and the truth of Peregine Worsthorn's recent remark in London's Sunday Telegraph, to the effect that the United States has been the "protector" of the West's decent values, I believe that most anti-Americans can be put down as simple jackasses, complete with hoofs, elongated ears and the standard-length tails for lazily swatting the flies they attract.
Anti-Americanism is what fevers the Tehran mobs. Molesting a few bewildered Iranians will not end it and is not an honorable way to deal with it. Rather, we ought to understand that anti-Americanism is rooted in illogic and baseness and that there are very few constructive policies we might adopt that will soon eliminate it. Those Americans who blame our foreign policy toward the shah for the mobs in Tehran are themselves besotted with the anti-American hooch.