We're Poindexter, Casey, Ollie, and Ron,
people are saying we've done something wrong.
All that we did was sell some guns
to the Ayatollah and some of his chums.
We came to power because of those guys:
they took Jimmy Carter and cut him to size!
So we'd like to thank them for all that they've done,
we're Poindexter, Casey, Ollie, and Ron...
That was the opening verse of a song one of my faithful Mormon BYU dorm-mates privately shared with me my freshman year. It was a song by a garage band from Portland, Oregon -- the sort of thing that would be on YouTube today, but back in those days would be smuggled in via "cassette tape" to be played on a "boom box."
What dredged up this random scrap out of my memory?
Well, I'm currently reading Reading Lolita In Teheran -- an absolutely fascinating book about bright young women surviving under the heavy veil of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Like weeds that can't be kept from growing up in the cracks of a paved-over surface, they find a way to live and grow -- in this case nourished by the forbidden study and discussion of literature.
The author/protagonist Azar Nafisi is a professor who recounts a little of her past here and there, including memories of that crucial and turbulent time that took a largely secular/leftist revolution -- the overthrow of the Shah -- and turned it into The Islamic Revolution.
Marjane Satrapi recounts some of the same events in Persepolis (which I've lately decided is my favorite film), but since Satrapi was a kid at the time (around my age, by coincidence), she's a little vague on some of the details that Nafisi fills in.
These two books reminded me that the crisis in Iran was one of my earliest political memories:
It was around the end of 1980 and beginning of 1981. I was nine years old, and we had just moved to Minnesota, where I was baffled by the strange slang, fashions, and customs that seemed to be a requirement for fitting in. But as difficult as it was for me, it was clear it could be worse: one of the girls in my new class was from Iran.
Her name was Sanaz, the same name as one of the characters in Nafisi's book. Obviously, my new classmates in Mr. Berger's 4th/5th-grade class had dubbed her "Sa-nose." I imagine that the kids had been instructed not to blame her for the hostage situation that was constantly in the news (since she was just a kid so it was obviously not her fault), but let's just say it wasn't the best year to be "the kid from Iran."
Now, reading in these books about all the people who fled Iran at that time, I can't help but wonder what her situation was, and what became of her (since I have no memory of her past elementary school).
I'd like to turn this into one of those heart-warming tales of how I befriended the outcast -- since it's not too far from the truth. But the thing is that in order to give something, you have to have something. Upon my arrival in Minnesota, I immediately took my natural place on the lowest rung on the popularity ladder, teased and bullied just the same (earning the far more imaginative nickname "Medusa" -- still not sure precisely how), whereas Sanaz was already friends with the other despised foreign girl (who I think was from Mexico). I formed kind of a loose alliance with the two of them in the grand tradition of misfit loners who don't necessarily understand each other any better than they understand the popular kids. I had no other friends.
I think if it were today, I would have been diagnosed somewhere on the "autism spectrum." But in those days if you were the weird kid, it was your own problem to deal with: sink or swim...