August 28, 2008

This Isn’t Vegas, It’s Your Life

This isn’t Las Vegas; what happens in the rest of the world doesn’t stay there.  In fact, it very much affects us here in the United States.  It makes us more secure and prosperous, and that’s what makes America great.
It’s why we, as Iranian-Americans, have chosen to come here to the US.  In America we have striven to build our own expatriate version of the Persian Empire with prominent doctors, lawyers, engineers, artists, intellectuals, aspiring politicians and visionaries.  We have chosen to raise our future generations here, who will no doubt stay in the United States permanently.  It’s where some have come to escape uncertainty, choosing to live out their remaining years in a quiet corner of this country in the perfect house with a white picket fence, 2.5 kids, a garden, and a dog.  It’s where others have come to scream and shout.  But in the end it has been our choice; and so it must be our choice to participate and have a say because no one is going to hold our hands and ask us what we need and want from America.
Sometimes what we need from America to make our dreams come true isn’t obvious.  The answer is not always blatantly placed before us.  Take global poverty for example.  It may seem a bit random, but trust me, it makes sense!  At least it does to me and all the more so after hearing a second session at the Rocky Mountain Roundtable where panelists discussed the issue of global poverty.
Global poverty has become a serious issue within America in recent years as its citizens are waking up and realizing that addressing poverty is in the security and economic interests of the United States.  There seems to be a greater sense of moral priority placed on poverty alleviation and the urgent need for a plan of action in helping some of the world’s most destitute areas.  As one of the panelists, actor Ben Affleck put it, one must be invested in the actual issues to realize how it really does affect us in the US.  It was emphasized that charity is not what is wanted or needed, but the opportunity to do business and have investment and access to the market.
What does this have to do with Iranian Americans?  First, I must praise our community for being one of the most philanthropic groups of people and taking on some of these issues.  But as a community who has moved to this country for a better life, we, for one, understand the problem of lack of access and, therefore, hold most valuable our accomplishments in this country.  For a country whose profits come mostly from the outside world versus being homegrown, the US cannot continue to prosper and allow us to prosper as its citizens when the majority of the world is in poverty.
The issue also touches very closely to home for those of us who hope to see a better US-Iran relationship.  No, Iran is not poverty stricken, but it is not prospering either, and the same issues apply.  If the mass Iranian population is allowed market access, if companies invest in the country and the people, and sanctions are removed to allow growth and prosperity, just maybe then will the people of Iran have the resources and time to hold their government more accountable?
And those of us living here are no different; we must hold our government in the United States accountable to the issues that matter most to us.  We must do this, if not for the sake of hungry children all over the world, at least for the sake of our own personal empires that we have worked so hard to build and foster.

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