What’s in a name?

While shopping today I met a very interesting man. He was in his thirties and had just opened a shop. I won’t say where in order to protect his identity.

We chatted for a while and then he asked me where I came from. I told him and then asked him where he came from. He said “Guess” and I said “Lebanon?”

It was then that he surprised me with his answer. He said he came from Persia and so I asked him why he didn’t say Iran. He laughed and made a reference to the comedian Ali G who always makes jokes about Iran and Iraq causing confusion.

And then he became serious. He told me that he had escaped from Iran three years ago because he was being persecuted by Ahmedinejad’s government. He said that being of the Bahai faith he was no longer safe there and so had left. Besides, he was not proud to be from Iran and then he called the current leader a few choice names. He preferred to think of himself as a Persian and hated what had become of a once proud nation.

It was not until he made such a statement that I realised that I have not heard of any Iranian restaurants in Australia. They call themselves Persian and their food is delicious.

It must be very sad for a person to have to be coy about his country of origin. To be ashamed of what his country has turned into must be so painful. As an Ancient History teacher I am only too aware of the greatness of the Persian Empire and its marvellous culture.

Of course, Iran is not the only country to have suffered this fate. Germany has had its share of shame. Anyone who is familiar with the British comedy, “Fawlty Towers” will remember the episode in which a group of German tourists visited Basil’s domain and all he could say was “don’t mention the war” and then proceeded to embarrass the Germans with every thing he said. Although it was a comedy there was much truth in Basil’s attitude. Germany had been at war with the Brits after all, and such conflicts cannot be glossed over.

I’ve often wondered how the children of former Nazis must feel and in fact there was a documentary made about one son who could not get over what his father had done. And yes, I felt very sorry for the son.

There will always be pariah nations. That’s the way of the world, I guess, but I genuinely felt sorry for the young man I met today and hope that one day he can say where he comes from with pride.

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