June 12, 2008

Day 1 with NIAC

One of the great aspects of America is that we have many different cultures and identities living together in relative harmony. As a democracy, the American political institution functions best when citizens participate. The Iranian-American community may be small, but as an important minority it is our duty as US citizens to engage in American civic life. Unfortunately, the Iranian community is largely politically inactive, but non-partisan organizations like NIAC have sought to encourage the community to engage in American civic life to a greater extent.

Although I was born in California to Iranian parents, I was raised (surrounded by hundreds of Iranian friends and family from San Francisco to Los Angeles and across the US to Washington, DC) in Persian culture and language. Throughout my life, I have had to balance the dual-identity dynamic, as I maintained my Iranian roots at home but was exposed to American culture and English at school. As I grew, my personality took on more and more ‘American’ aspects but the post-Sept. 11 world has given me a renewed sense of loyalty to the Iranian culture within the framework of a man raised in America, a nation unlike any other; since then, I have learned to balance the two identities.
Since I grew up here, I’ve been a first-hand witness to the largely lacking Iranian participation in American civic life. I have found members of the community to be politically apathetic towards the American institution, quite possibly stemming from their mentality that the US, as their adopted nation, is not a permanent home. Larger Iranian communities (such as in the greater Washington, DC area, Southern California, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Seattle) have effectively established themselves as a nation-within-a-nation. Many of these Iranians primarily socialize with other Iranians and do not participate in American civic life.
However, as the Iranian community expands to include Iranians born in America such as myself, there is greater interaction between the Iranians and the non-Iranians. My generation has, in a way, forced the older generations to interact with those outside of the community via school, sports and other extra-curricular activities, and the like. Thus our community in America has grown in size. Many say that today we are an important (albeit small) corner-stone of the American business community (in California especially).
Even so, our political clout in the US is fundamentally lacking due to the fact that there is an apathy among the Iranians with regards to the American political institution (as mentioned before). In light of this, NIAC has sought to rectify this issue. As an organization that actively promotes Iranian participation in American civic life, NIAC has sought to increase the levels of communique between the (at times) estranged Iranian community and the American political institution.
I consider it a great honor to be an intern at NIAC, where Iranians and Americans alike work towards the goal of a more integrated life for Iranians in the US. Getting Iranians engaged in American civic life is only possible with their help, and the community outreach aspect of NIAC aims at this precisely. My hope for this summer is that I can help reach out to the community in an effort to promote their participation.

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