Monday, June 15, 2009

Wishing I Was In Tehran

"Wishing I could be in Tehran right now. History doesn't have that many fulcra." by thornburgh on Twitter, 2:37 p.m. (Chicago Time), 15 June 2009 The current protests in the streets of Tehran and other cities in Iran make up a moment in history, and "thornburgh" is correct to refer to the moment as a fulcrum, a pivotal instant that changes events that come afterward. Such moments include the assassinations of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy. Other examples of historic fulcra: The flooding of New Orleans, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, every occurrence of any killer plague, the tumbling of the Berlin Wall, and the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. I was almost there for the 1979 revolution. Almost, of course, only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Even so, it was a pivotal point for me. One year out of college with a Journalism degree and looking for work in the summer of 1978, I called on a fellow alumnus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison for help. He was from a well-connected family Tehran, where his brother was the editor of the Tehran Journal and a cousin was an editor at National Iranian Radio and Television (NIRT), both English language news services at the time. As such, they preferred to hire writers from the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom. My Persian friend told me to send my resume to him, which he forwarded to his brother and cousin in Iran. Meanwhile, I continued my job search in the U.S. I promised myself that I would take a job in Tehran if offered, unless something else was offered first. As fate would have it, I was offered a job as a copywriter for a well-known catalog house in Chicago's western suburbs. I took the job, moved to Illinois (from Madison, Wisconsin), and settled in. One week after starting the catalog job, I received a letter from my friend's brother at the Tehran Journal. He offered me a writing job there, complete with moving expenses and assistance with setting up an apartment. I don't know how my life might be different today had I taken the job in Tehran. Less than 18 months after getting the offer letter from the Tehran Journal, all hell broke loose in that city. The Ayatollah Khomeini took power in January, 1979. In November of that year, the U.S. Embassy was seized by some of his lunatic followers, one of which was the current Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. At the time, I breathed a sigh of relief for not being there. Quickly, however, I regretted not being there. I regretted missing a great pivotal moment, a fulcrum, in history. I spent a semester in Munich in 1974, and visited Berlin for a week. When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 I was living in Los Angeles, and almost drove to LAX on a whim to catch the next plane to Berlin. The thing that stopped me was a friend who pointed out that about a million other people around the globe undoubtedly had the same idea, and that flights would be difficult to get and - once in Berlin - lodging impossible to find. I settled for watching that fulcrum on television. So here we are in 2009, fulcra overlapping everywhere. North Korea's madness. The continuing twin fulcra of Iraq and Afghanistan. The imposition of quasi-fascist, iron fisted economic "policy" on the U.S. by the Obama Regime. The worldwide recession. Those, and so many more fulcra, each with intended and unintended consequences, the effects of which we can only guess at, many of which we will not fully understand until historians 50 years from now analyze them. Fulcra, pivotal moments, do not have to be major international events. You experience pivotal moments every day, every hour, in your personal life. Deciding which shirt to put on tomorrow morning could influence your life in unpredictable ways. The person interviewing you for a job might not like the shirt, which might prevent you from getting the job, which could influence the rest of your life. The choice of shirt may - or may not - influence your chance of getting a date with that special someone. Get the date and it might - or might not - lead to marriage, children, grandchildren. A different shirt tomorrow morning seems insignificant, but it just might change your entire future. Or not. That's why pivotal moments, fulcra, are so important to watch. While you don't want to become obsessed with your daily choice of upper torso wear, you should take an interest in the Big Stuff. An event such as the protests in Iran today might seem remote to you, but it could easily have a more lasting and more profound influence on your life that your choice of shirt tomorrow. Suppose, for example, that the protests in Iran turn into full fledged riots, which transform into a bona fide revolution. It's not that far fetched. It happened 30 years ago in Tehran. Such things have happened hundreds of times in other places throughout history. If Iran goes into another revolution, more fulcra come into play. Other countries may jump into the fray, supporting one side or the other. That could lead to regional war, which could lead to global economic hardship or even global war in the extreme case. Global war, you cannot deny, would affect you and your future enormously. Pay attention. In retrospect, perhaps I'm better off for not having been in Tehran in 1979. Perhaps not. It's impossible to say. Today, though, I find myself wishing to be there, witnessing history, marching with Persians against dictatorship, showing support for lovers of democracy in a way that President Barack Hussein Obama has been oddly reluctant to demonstrate. I must be content to watch the current Tehran fulcrum from afar, on television and, this time around, on the Internet. History repeats itself, but the repetition is never exact. The fulcra sometimes rhyme, as they do today with 1979. The poetry of history is all around you. Listen to it. Today's poem could well become tomorrow's mandatory script. Learn your lines in advance. And for God's sake, don't wear that shirt tomorrow. RELATED: Iran analysis: protest draws comparisons with 1979 revolution See Comments... Visit Our Online Store Chicago News Bench RSS Feed Hey! ChiNewsBench is on Twitter