Dallas Smith's Blog

Thoughts on Iran, Boston, and a Police Shooting

No, I have not traveled to Iran, but my across-the-street neighbor just returned from a one month visit to his hometown of Shiraz, Iran. My neighbor's Iranian name is Parvez. Parvez has lived in the states for almost thirty years. He's an artist as well as being a capable handyman, i.e. a "jack of all trades", able to do household jobs such as plumbing, electrical, landscaping, painting, repairs, etc. Parvez worked in Nevada's casinos for many years as a card dealer. Early in his casino career, when he was filling out his paperwork, he was told, "When some employee has a name that we can't remember or pronounce, we just call him George." And so, Parvez became known as "George" to all his casino co-workers. When a foreigner becomes an American citizen, he/she has the opportunity to "Americanize" their name, or to take a brand new name. When Parvez became an American citizen, after having lived here for so many years, he officially took the name George, which I will use for the rest of this blog.

George had not visited Iran for almost ten years. George grew up in Shiraz, which is located in the Southern part of Iran, and is most famous for being close to the ancient ruins of Persepolis. Shiraz is also the original source of the grape variety which gives its name to so many fine bottles of wine produced around the world.

George was struck by the increased prosperity exhibited by so many Iranians. Compared with his last visit a decade ago, Iranians have caught up with the Western world in terms of acquiring widescreen televisions, digital cameras, computers, the latest fashions, etc. From Iran to India to China…around the world…people want to have all the latest material possessions produced by Americans, Europeans, and the Japanese.

According to George, at least in his social circle, Iranians love Americans. The largest Iranian community outside Iran is in Los Angeles, known as "Little Teheran". Thus, there are many deep cultural ties between ex-patriot Iranians (such as George) in America and their families and friends back in Iran.

There is a tension within Iranian society between those educated middle class Iranians who want to live modern lives, and the poorer more traditional Iranians who think modern ways are un-Islamic. This poorer, often rural constituency is the power base for the Ayatollahs, the Republican Guard, and the militantly Islamic elements within the current government. Prime minister Ahmedinejad is not popular among the more affluent Iranians. Indeed, there is a Green Party movement that has attempted to challenge the current government. Iran holds elections, and unlike in China or North Korea, different political groups compete for votes. Unfortunately, there are suspicions that the vote counting is rigged to favor the existing power structure. Eventually, the corruption associated with the current government will lead to its downfall and replacement, that is, unless Iran is attacked by Israel or the US, which would cause the Iranian people to unite behind the current government.

Iran has been in the news a lot recently because of Western suspicions that Iran intends to build a nuclear bomb. Based on this nuclear suspicion (not definitively confirmed) and based on a speech by Ahmedinejad, in which he expressed the desire for Israel's destruction, Israel's Netanyahu has talked openly of the possibility of Israel attacking Iran to forestall its nuclear program. Some American politicians, especially Senators McCain, Lieberman, and Graham, plus the Republican Presidential candidates Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich, speak in favor attacking Iran with or without Israel's initiative.

In 1941 the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor for the same reason being expressed by these warmongers, to destroy America's (and in this case, Iran's) future potential military capabilities. The eventual retaliation in response to Japan's surprise attack on America was bad for the Japanese people. I fear an Israeli "surprise" attack on Iran would eventually lead to Israel's destruction. It would fulfill the Islamic narrative of Israel being the dangerous military aggressor. Any large unprovoked military action against Iran would lead to retaliatory actions for years against Israeli and American citizens around the world. The resulting spike in petroleum prices would cause global economic havoc. I could cite more reasons to oppose the efforts to lead America into its third war in a decade, but I don't want this to turn into a political rant.

Boston, a Great American City

It's mainly during my travels that I find the time to write down my thoughts, usually inspired by those travels. (I just tend to be too busy at home in Reno to write.) Susan and I are in Boston for a few days attending a medical conference of the Association of Nurse Executives. The attendees to this conference are typically the individuals with the authority to make the decision to contract our C.A.R.E. Channel for their hospitals. We are having a vendor booth in the conference exhibit hall, staffed by two colleagues from Healing Healthcare Systems who traveled with us on this trip.

Walking around the streets of downtown Boston is very pleasant. Boston is one of the few American cities that values its old buildings, creating a historical presence not unlike that in many European cities. Again, similar to European cities, Boston is good for pedestrians. Boston is home to the Berkeley Music School (specializing in jazz), which results in great musicians playing on the streets. The streets are a rich mix of ethnicities, which is great for people-watching. It's just amazing how many different types of individuals there are in the world!

Susan and I both have close personal friends living in Boston that we haven't seen for a decade or more. Thus, this business trip creates the possibility of re-connecting with these old friends, all of whom are musicians. It's interesting to reflect on how the twenty year process of building our company, Healing Healthcare Systems, has led to a complete career change for Susan and me, compared with these old friends who have continued their careers as lifelong musicians. We're glad that we don't have to support ourselves economically strictly from our musical performances, as we did prior to founding our company. Nonetheless, we never forget that it was our mutual love of music that brought us together in this personal relationship. Next week, we will celebrate our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.

Current Events Addendum

Once again, America's gun culture has resulted in the death of an innocent black man. Today's news is covering the shooting of a teenager by an armed "neighborhood guard", who claimed that he killed the teen in "self-defense." The state of Florida has a law which allows a shooter to claim "self-defense" if he feels "threatened". Statistics since this law came into force several years ago report that forty-two people have been killed, most of them unarmed, after which the self-defense claim absolved the shooters of any legal ramifications. This law allows any white person to kill any person of color that he fears and afterwards claim "self-defense". Unfortunately, there is a long history in the Southern states of blacks being killed with impunity by whites who feared them.

Political pressure by the National Rifle Association promotes the idea that all American citizens should be armed for self-defense. Their philosophy is that one shouldn't depend on the government for protection, but that each individual should be armed and prepared to use lethal force for self-protection. Whenever a mass shooting occurs (which is unfortunately all too often), the NRA laments the fact that the victims weren't all armed and able to defend themselves. The NRA's motto is: Guns don't kill people; people kill people. By that logic, nuclear bombs don't kill people; people kill people. This is the logic that pushes Iran, Pakistan, India, North Korea, and Israel to acquire nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, the US government, being the first country to develop nuclear weapons and the only country to use them in war, is threatening to attack Iran for seeking to acquire the same weapons for its self-defense against a nuclear armed Israel and US whose forces which surround them in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Persian Gulf. Will this aggressive national posturing by American, Israeli, and Iranian politicians end in global tragedy? I wish I were more trusting of basic human nature. The historical precedents are not encouraging.

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