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Reading the New York Times coverage of the Iran riots I was struck by a comment by a protester: “On Instagram, I saw a picture of a woman in Tehran with her S.U.V., who wrote she spends $3,000 on her pets each month,” Mehdi said. “A person can live here with that money for a year. I got angry.”
Another man complained that he wasn’t being given adequate services as a veteran. Others expressed upset about the amount of money the Iranian government is spending on foreign wars.
I don’t see how any of this is different here in the U.S.? I live in Orange County, California where people in high-end SUV’s definitely spend on their pets what a homeless person in an encampment down the freeway could live on for a year. But no one is protesting here.
The American government has spent billions on foreign wars that could go to education, healthcare and food for the poor in the United States, and to American Vets of those foreign wars, but few protest and when they do it certainly doesn’t receive the kind of coverage that Iran is getting.
Some of these same Orange County folks, much like our own president are heartily supporting the protestors in Iran, but wouldn’t think twice about criticizing an American citizen who protested all the money that is going to our foreign wars.
I am not commenting on protestors in Iran, but rather saying let’s look at whether we would support the same action, the same grievances coming from our own citizens?
I’ve spent my adult life researching and writing on Iran as an anthropologist and living between both countries. I increasingly see more similarities than differences. Many of the protestors in Iran now were people who supported the Revolution at its inception. I see a parallel between people who voted for Trump and may now be wondering if it isn’t a bit reprehensible that a night on the town for him might feed a hungry family in one of his red states for a month?
Is he supporting the protestors in Iran because he really believes in their cause which is a demand to feed the poor, get adequate healthcare and stop spending billions on foreign wars that could go to the needy at home? If so, wonderful, let’s see some of that support here as well! What’s the point of being a super-power if you can’t take care of your own citizens… and that goes for all aspiring super powers across the globe.
Roxanne Varzi is an associate professor of anthropology and film and media studies at University of California, Irvine. She is the author of Last Scene Underground: an ethnographic novel of Iran and director of Plastic Flowers Never Die, a documentary on the Iran-Iraq war.