“I am Persian, like the cat, meow!” And the crowd already rolling with laughter breaks out in an even louder burst of hilarity. Just a few hours before, Michelle Obama delivered an inspirational speech formally kicking off the Democratic National Convention, speaking of “belief in America’s promise, [and] commitment to our children’s future.” A harder act to follow, was that of an emotional Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), predicting a “new wave of change.”
Despite the challenge, Maz Jobrani and fellow comedians, Dean Obeidallah, Ahmad Ahmad, and Maysoon Zayid, did a stand up job in bringing in the crowd to two back to back shows and having them laughing their socks off at the Kabob Comedy show. Jokes aside, all four comedians spoke passionately about the importance of voting and being an active Iranian/Arab/Muslim/female American (or any combination of) in today’s political climate. Each having faced their own challenges, from the extreme of being detained post September 11 to racial slurs, they saw hope and change with the 2008 presidential election.
The event was put on by the Arab American Institute, who did an excellent job in bringing in the crowd. What stood out most to me was despite being sponsored by a non-Iranian organization and with three-fourths of the show being presented by Arab Americans, the crowd was easily populated by half if not more Iranian Americans. While it is always amusing to poke fun of politicians, and some claiming all politics one giant joke, what will not be funny is when the Iranian-American voice is left out of the debates in the next week and again during the week of the Republican National Convention.
The great debate has persisted for the last 30 years on why Iranians are reluctant to partake in political activities. We all know them by heart and have even probably used them as an excuse for our own lack of activity. We need to put our excuses aside because we can no longer afford not to speak up and be engaged. Speaking to some of the Iranians at the show, it is evident that there is even a sense of frustration from our community about ourselves.
Very few minority groups are actually sought after by politicians, and in no other time in history is the opinion and voice of the Iranian American population more important than now. Sen. McCain has already appointed a special coordinator for Iranian American outreach and Sen. Obama is also reaching out to the community through a committee for small ethnic minority groups. While they have seen some positive response, there is still a sense of urgency by both camps who keep popping up at events with Iranian presence, such as last night, in the hopes of getting the community somewhat engaged and hearing what they have to say.
So for those who are frustrated and for those who keep wondering what they can do despite leading a busy life, I say to you, lend them your mind for they have lent you their ears! Speak out and let them hear your voice. It is obvious that both sides are trying very hard to appease the community and win our vote. Believe it or not, we do matter and what is more important, they want us on their side. What side you pick and what the next administration does with your vote is your choice. But it is obvious that they want us to speak up, so as Ahmad Ahmad put it, “yallah, vote!