Information, observations, and analysis from the James River valley on the Northern Plains-----
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During the homecoming weekend for NSU last month, a big topic of discussion was the book Reading Lolita in Tehran.
Former students had told me I could not call myself literate unless I read it. They have a point.
The book is by Azar Nafisi who taught English literature at universities in Iran and now teaches at John Hopkins. Prof. Nafisi was expelled from the University of Tehran because the Islamic rulers did not find her subservient enough. The book is account of her teaching experiences, the most important of which occured when she and a group of women students met for two years every Thursday morning in her home to discuss works of literature.
The works included Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita
, which may seem like a risky choice to be reading in the immensely oppressive revolutionary Iran. Prof. Nafisi relates how important literature is and how it works as the intellectual material and catalyst to obtain pespectives and form values about political and social issues. She restores the purpose and function of literature in a way much needed in our time when fundamentalist militants have repressive designs for all of us.
Perhaps one of the most important things the book does is delineate the violent oppression that has held Iran in its grip since the revolution of 1979. The American press has let us know of how repressive the Taliban regime was in Afghanistan, but it has not told the free world that the same thing is going on in Iran, often worse. For a professor from America to hear how students are arrested and executed for slight exhibitions of individual personality or being associated with any circumstance that displeases the Islamic tyrants, it is jolting. The accounts given in Reading Lolita in Tehran
indicate that the repressions and killing are as ruthless and atrocious as anything we have heard and read about in the former Soviet Union.
That Iran bases its pogrom against its people on religion instead of politics does not mitigate the crimes it commits against its people. Still, the press seems to regard what takes place there as an expression of freedom of religion.
Even after 9-11, Americans are inclined to treat Islamic criminals against humanity differently than Marxist or fascist terrorists. Christianity is based on peace and good will, even though few of its denominations preach or practice its fundamental principles. Islam is not a religion of peace and good will. And nothing illustrates that fact better than the president of Iran repeating Khomeini's charge to wipe Israel off the face of the earth.
Iran is no different than Nazi Germany and its holocaust. It is no different than the Soviet Union during its most violent repressions under Stalin.
The world needs to know and understand Iran. There is no better beginning than Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran.
And the free world, at least that portion of it that still endorses peace and good will as worthy attributes to pursue and project, needs to come to terms with what threats are posed to the rest of the world by the Islamic hate jihad.
Doing what we have done in Iraq is obviously no answer. It is time for America to martial its brain power, not its military bluster. It's what we did in 1776. And 1865. And during and following World War II.
If we don't, Israel may well be wiped off the face of the earth. And us, too.
The brains are out there. Maybe somebody somewhere can find the brains to use them.