Friday, September 14, 2012

My Experience Working With Iranians

Unless you've done a bit of traveling, you may not have a good grasp of the nuances of other cultures. However, one of the great things about our country, being the melting pot of the world that it is and welcoming immigrants who wish to become Americans, we really don't need to travel the world.

The world comes to us.

We have a lot to offer: freedom and opportunity for a better life are certainly at the top of that list.

Accordingly, many of us have worked with folks who are from somewhere else. In my case, I worked with a group of college students from Iran in the 1970's in a restaurant back home in Alabama.

It was an chance to see America through the eyes of guys from half a world away. It was, shall I say, enlightening.

This was around the time of the Shah of Iran's death, after he had been deposed. While some of the details are a bit foggy, my overall impression of their reaction to American culture remains strong. What I do remember was the contempt they showed towards our culture and mores. It was palpable. Out of a group of eight or so, I was only able to make friends with one student whose name was, appropriately, Mohammed. He developed a fondness for our music and we had several conversations over beers while the store jukebox played in the background after we had closed the store.

He was the only one. The rest kept their distance, and Mohammed was quiet condemned by them. It wasn't overt, but I could tell.

The other guys thought nothing of clocking an absent friend in to work when he wasn't there. Insubordination was a common problem, along with difficulty following company procedure.

The real kicker came when several of them flew from North Alabama to Los Angeles to take part in protests on American soil. It was then that I realized something that would stick with me to this day: some people just plain don't like us. I felt betrayed. How could someone from a foreign country come over here and protest on my land? Where is your respect?

My young eyes were opened. I gained some insight into their cultural attitudes in the time we spent working together. Their actions indicated that they were happy to take advantage of the freedoms we offered in a very condescending way. They clearly looked down upon us while making money and receiving a good education, neither of which were available to them in their home country.

Now don't get the idea that I think my experience would or should apply to everyone from that part of the world. Indeed, many come here in order to escape the brutal oppression that befalls those who are bold enough to think for themselves and question their culture. We've all seen reports of the stonings, imprisonments and executions of those who dare to challenge their government's iron-fisted sharia rule.

Needless to say, my experience with multiculturalism left a lasting impression.

Not a good one.

It did make me realize just how fortunate I am to be American.

I truly love this land.

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