Friday, September 29, 2006


I can’t find the exact quotation but Teddy Roosevelt once said something like: “As long as Americans believe that everyone in the world is just like them, they will never be able to cope with world affairs.” I mentioned this to an educated, bombastic acquaintance who had never traveled. He protested indignantly. Why, he said, he had just seen a documentary about head hunters in Borneo and they seemed just like him.

I swear that story is true. The trouble is it is typical of many Americans, even those who have traveled extensively and should know better. It is the democratic (read politically correct) thing to do. I can’t remember if I was of that mind-set before I started traveling. I know a little bit of traveling made me a realist.

Iran was an eye-opener. I came across Taqiya without any warning. Taqiya is, in Islamic jurisprudence, religiously-sanctioned lying. It is in the Shi’a branch of the religion which is dominant in Iran. You can read the Wikipedia explanation of Taqiya *HERE*. I disagree with the Wikipedia explanation which says, in part, it allows believers to conceal their faith when under threat, persecution or compulsion. In Iran, the general usage is, you are allowed to lie in the face of the enemy. That, of course, leaves it up to the individual to define who is the enemy.

Being a westerner in Iran, I was often defined as the enemy. I was never lied to so consistently and persistently in my life. Even trivial things like street directions were totally unreliable.

I think of those experiences when I hear about the negotiations going on over Iranian nuclear enrichment. The negotiators are getting mixed messages from the Iranians? Welcome to the club.


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