I’m a Liberal Iranian American

By Parsa Farhang (University of Washington Undergraduate)

My name is Parsa and I’m a liberal Iranian American, who was born and raised in Portland Oregon.  I am currently attending the University of Washington.

My family and I are not the most politically active people in the United States.  My mom has a degree in computer science, my father is an electrical engineer who works for Intel, and I myself am looking to major in biology so I can attain my dream job of working in a medical research lab.

With that being said however, my parents truly understand the importance of politics and have instilled that understanding in me.  My dad’s side of the family left Iran and immigrated to the states when he was nine, where he was bullied for a while due to the backlash regarding the Iran Hostage Crisis.  In addition, my mom had to live her early teen years in Iran at the climax of the Iranian Revolution, and ended up leaving her home to live abroad by herself at the age of 15 years old, all while her parents stayed in their home country as it was metaphorically torn apart by a political movement driven by fervent populism and literally torn apart due to the decade long Iran-Iraq war that forced them to live their lives with the constant crescendo of air raid sirens and bombs in the back drop.

They know how crucial politics can be in shaping the lives of real human beings, like themselves, and they deeply understand how valuable American democracy is.  Given that Iran was a monarchy under the Shah and a sham of a democracy under the Ayatollahs, they genuinely grasp that voting is a special privilege that deserves thought and respect, not a basic human right all people have access to around the world.  Thus through their stories, experiences, and perspectives, I have taken steps in understanding this lesson myself, and in this election cycle specifically (as it is the first one I’m eligible to vote in), I tried to engage myself in this country’s political process more than I used to.  

I engaged myself by watching Hardball with Chris Matthews every day after school, getting in heated political discussions with some of my friends in our free time, going to a Bernie Sanders rally (the one where the bird landed on his podium), and taking a brief and not so successful shot at phone banking for Hillary Clinton.  In addition, a couple of my friends and I would even sometimes hang out and watch FOX News to try and understand the opposing view point that was so spectacularly omitted from my overly liberal high school located in Portland Oregon. In these ways, a minority of my friends and I tried to engage ourselves politically.

While we were doing this we found that the vast majority of our peers did little to nothing in order to educate themselves about our democratic process.  Many of these individuals would identify themselves as ardent liberals who claimed to be politically active.  Yet this was all a facade.  People would assume Clinton was the most crooked and corrupt politician to ever seek the presidency without doing their own investigating.  People would go from blindly supporting Bernie (who I too supported for a while) to blindly supporting Gary Johnson despite the fact that his political ideology had little to no overlap with that of Bernie’s.  People would engage in political discourse by neglecting to watch the news, claiming it was “too depressing”, and instead making vapid social media posts about how stupid Donald Trump was.  People would even claim to be socially liberal by making broad statements that seem to fall in line with the liberal dogma, as one girl in my class notably said “people should get as many abortions as possible, I mean…why do we even need condoms.”  These people did not encompass the entirety of my high school, and many of them were still very intelligent and good hearted people, yet there was a much higher percentage of them than I would have expected.

Despite my high school experience (which I enjoyed greatly on the whole), I was optimistic that college would be even better, especially in the realm of political engagement.  The average kid would be older, meaning everyone would be eligible to vote, and I assumed that kids on college campuses were some of the most politically engaged individuals in the country.  On election night however, I was crushed to see the political engagement resemble that of my high school.  Nearly everyone, almost all of whom identified as liberal, claimed to be invested in the process, yet I soon found out that only a minority of them were.  As I was watching, in the packed dorm lounge, John King declare Ohio red, Florida begin to pull away, and Wisconsin get off to an awful start, I was horrified that Trump was likely to become my next president, yet what truly broke my heart was the apparent lack of interest in many of my peers.  People would say things like “lol America’s toast”, “I hope the Mexican wall looks artsy” or “there’ll be only 25 letters in the alphabet as America will be taking an L (as in loss) for the next four years.”  People would then propose drinking games, or make shallow social media posts to try and garner a few laughs or try and make political comments that show their lack of understanding like, “at least Pennsylvania is close…it usually goes Republican I think.”  Others would then start playing games on their phone, or talk about what signs they were going to make for the UW vs. USC football game this week, all while the election wasn’t even over.  Shortly after witnessing this I went to my room by myself and cried for the first time in a long long time.

I just couldn’t believe how many kids in my generation just didn’t care or pretended to care.  I told my roommate, who is really invested in politics and empathized with me, what I think.  I said I wasn’t mad at ardent Trump supporters, as many of them were economically desperate, and/or socially conservative.  They voted for the candidate they truly believed would serve them best.  I was moderately upset with Ryan Republicans, as they knew how destructive Trump was but at least they never claimed to be liberal and many of them were genuine social conservatives who feared about the future of the Supreme Court.  I was the most upset with liberal millennials who were more focused on having fun and maintaining their own personal image than to get invested in our democracy.  I myself could have done a hell of a lot more to support my candidate, as some of my friends and peers spent hours volunteering for the DNC, but I have no sense of guilt as I at the very least did my job as an American to educate, engage and inform myself, and my thoughts, about our political process.  Thus I don’t expect others to dedicate hours of their lives campaigning and volunteering for their political party, but I do expect others to at least carry their own weight politically and to understand that voting is a sacred privilege.

All in all, although I feel terrible and despondent right now, I do have optimism for the future.  With a Republican Congress there is no excuse for Trump and his followers, and they must garner results or expose to the country their ineptitude.  In addition, I have hope that this event in US history will serve as a catalyst to awaken disengaged youth, hopefully preventing a repeat of this in years to come!

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