In the current negotiation, the challenge for Iranians is to temper their pride in their 2,000-year history and to discount their grievances against the West of the past century long enough to reach a place that will allow them to back down from their assertion of their “right” to nuclear enrichment.
The challenge for us is to look at Persia (Iran) from the other side of Thermopylae. The regime of the last 30 years hasn’t made this easy, especially as it’s expressed itself in the anti-Semitic blusterings of former President Ahmadinejad.
But members of Congress who are resistant to the modest easing of sanctions or who advocate enhanced sanctions are oversimplifying modern Iran almost as badly as the movie “300” oversimplifies the Persians. Despite the repressive government that’s been empowered at least partly by Iran’s contact with the West, journalists and scholars like Vali Nasr, Sandra Mackey and Elaine Sciolino have portrayed a young Iranian population with pro-Western, modernist, secular inclinations.
Our movies both reflect and mold what we think about the world. As negotiations proceed, let’s be cautious, but let’s resist the “us” versus the “other” stereotypes that are essential to movies like “300.” Both sides have a lot to gain.
John M. Crisp teaches in the English Department at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas.
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