Where else in the United States would nearly one thousand people attend a Tuesday night slideshow presentation about travelling in Iran, and give a standing ovation at the end? Just another reason why I love living in the Seattle area.
Kristin and I attended Rick Steves' presentation about Iran last night. The idea behind his trip to Iran came from the members of the United Nations Association, Seattle Chapter who wanted to try and do something that would stick out amongst all the saber rattling that was going on this past spring. So Steves set about getting his film crew together to head to Iran for a 12-day trip with the goal being to peel back the layers of politics and stereotypes and reveal the human side of the Iranians. Or as he put it, "to at least try to get to know the people we might end up bombing."
Those who think Ahmadinejad's words and feelings about the US are echoed by the minds of the 70 million Iranians would be surprised to hear that Rick was received warmly by Iranians of all ages, and that the citizens of Iran don't spend their time hating the US and Israel; they spend their time worrying about work, going to school, buying groceries, paying the rent, and everything else we all consume our days with. Yes, the theocratic government of Iran does have numerous anti-American/Israel murals on the sides of the buildings and does pay for much anti-western signage throughout the city of Tehran (home to 14 million). But the people of the country were not so different than you and I. They just want to fall in love, raise a family, and get a good job just like us. It would be impossible to talk about Iran without talking a bit of politics, but not to condemn or agree with opinions held by our leaders in Washington (certainly not to agree), but to offer what may be an explanation for some of the beliefs.
The crew didn't spend the entire trip in Tehran (oddly enough, a city that Rick compared to Vancouver, BC in appearance and cosmopolitan traits). They traveled south to Esfahan, to Shiraz, and Persepolis as well. The photos were very impressive. The architecture, the mosques, and especially the faces in the crowd were all very beautiful. Persepolis was one of the main sites during the Persian Empire and was on the level of Athens, Cairo, or Rome in terms of ancient sites.
The presentation ended with a rousing standing ovation not only for the slideshow, but to also commend Rick Steves for the hour-long PBS special that will be aired in January in over 100 cities around the country. Activism through eductation. I had the fortune of sitting next to an Iranian-American couple who were overjoyed at seeing someone from this country finally set out to humanize the Iranian people and make an effort to show the people of the USA, basically, that there is no reason for these citizens to die. That bomb-bomb-bombing Iran does have consequences. Some of the Iranian-American couples stood up to comment on several things that Rick didn't get to see, such as the people of Iran gathering to light candles and say prayers for the victims of 9/11. That he didn't get to truly feel the hospitality and cooking skills of the people because of his whirlwind tour. And one also expanded on some of Rick's comments about Iranian-American relations with regard to the Shaw and Khomeini.
Rick put together a 45-page journal designed to be a companion to his upcoming show on PBS. I'll post a reminder about the show in January, when it's set to air. In the meantime, Rick will be giving another presentation near Everett, Washington on November 8th.
You can watch a preview for the PBS show on Iran right here. There is also a lot of F.A.Q. style blurbs at that link that can offer up some answers to your Iranian curiosity.