A Plea to the American People
By Mohammad Soheil Sadabadi (Harvard College Undergraduate)
“This is George Bush, Soheil, the president of America. Americans are warlike and dislike foreigners, and they invade other countries like Iraq for money and power. They are our enemy”. This comment by my grandfather shaped my first impression of the United States of America, and indeed, this view of America was not rare amongst the Iranians in the early years of this millennium. Growing up in Iran, it was difficult to not despise the United States, for George Bush’s America was, to us, the nation that refused our outstretched hand of reconciliation and invaded countries to our east and west while vilifying us as the axis of evil. In short, the U.S. was, to us, a manifestation of the power of brute force, its actions demonstrating the helplessness of the weak in a world ruled by strength.
It was this very mindset of vulnerability that brought Iran’s populist sixth president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to power, and I had to witness my compatriots be swept up by hatred of all that was foreign, a hatred so alien to our identity and true character as a nation that it tore into our very soul as a nation. And indeed, while his campaign had promised to bring the wealth of our nation out of hands of the elite and into the plates and houses of the common people, his rule brought nothing but the demise of our currency, the destruction of our industries and the destitution of our people.
Yet while Ahmadinejad’s government made us an international pariah, America’s place in our national worldview changed. My people came to see the U.S. and its new president as symbols of progress and peace, and the very election of a man from a non-western background was seen as a sign of a tolerant, civilized nation that was no longer bound by the chains of racism and religious intolerance. This rising tide of moderation affected the entire world, and with it, my country, and soon, a moderate president was elected on the platform of restoring relations with a country that the people had considered a dangerous enemy only twelve years before that. When I decided to leave Iran to come study in the US, my grandfather supported my decision wholeheartedly.
When Donald Trump began his bid for the presidency of the U.S., I saw many parallels with our own rogue president, and I was afraid. I was afraid because I knew that any society that progressed as quickly and impressively as Obama’s America had will spawn reactionaries, who idly and silently bide their time until they find a leader. Unsurprisingly, I saw Trump exploit the feeling of disenfranchisement to push people into hatred. I saw how he did not hesitate to brand billions of people as terrorists and criminals. I watched with horror as he gave absurd promises, designed to play on the suffering of those whose livelihoods had been shattered by the free market, which he himself represented, to gain power. But despite my fear, I was confident that he would not be elected, that the American people would not repeat the mistake of my countrymen, and that this new moderate America which is a stabilizing force for the world will continue to exist. I was wrong.
Donald Trump won the presidency, sending a wave of shock through the world. The moderate America was gone overnight, and a terrifying, unpredictable man now held the reins of the most powerful nation on earth in his hands. A man who had repeatedly asked for an end to the Iran deal was now able to tear it into shreds. A warhawk who unabashedly called for war over a small incident and who had called the return of a people’s lawful property a ransom was now the leader of the free world. But what scares me more than his promises of Nuremberg-esque laws is how this new face of America will shape the world. I can only ask, no, plea with the American people to not be dismayed, to continue fighting, for if Donald Trump is allowed, he will destroy the status quo that keeps our world into balance, leaving the world to burn in the flames of his populism and egoism. It is only you who can prevent the face of America from being marred by this new president-elect, and it is only you who can prevent the hindrance of globalization by extreme nationalism across the world. In short, I beg you to prevent “Civis Americanus sum” from losing its place as a proud statement that attests to your nation, a nation that has stood for plurality, stability, freedom and tolerance since its very foundation.