When I saw some excerpts of Barack Obama’s unprecedented video address to the Iranian people, I first said, “wow, cool.” Then I watched the entire video and my “inner Iranian” said “who the hell do you think you are?”
What threw me was the following excerpt:
You, too, have a choice. The United States wants the Islamic Republic of Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations. You have that right — but it comes with real responsibilities, and that place cannot be reached through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that demonstrate the true greatness of the Iranian people and civilization. And the measure of that greatness is not the capacity to destroy, it is your demonstrated ability to build and create.
Who is Barack Obama or any American President, for that matter, to define “the true greatness of the Iranian people”? Perhaps to the Iranian government’s mindset, their true greatness lies in their ability to kick ass? And when one looks at American history, we have certainly not hidden our propensity to go and kick some ass. So, not only does this excerpt strike me as condescending, it also smacks slightly of hypocrisy. We don’t hesitate to go to other countries and beat the crap out of them, particularly when we have financial interests there but we give Iran a lecture?
This video would have been fine and dandy if the paragraph I highlighted above had been removed. I think it is really cool for Obama to directly address the people of Iran and reinforce that we are all made of the same blood, bone and skin. It is when this shared joy over their New Year became an opportunity to tell them how to behave that we crossed the line from diplomacy over into condescension.