Speaking of thy neighbor

Speaking of thy neighbor

A couple of weeks ago in my column, I asked Donald Trump’s Jewish voters if, in their minds, our historical experience as Jews created any doubts or even a dilemma about supporting him. In a nutshell, are they bothered by the idea of a (metaphoric or real) “wall”?

Readers’ responses ranged from “Compassion has nothing to do with it; laws must be obeyed,” to “Trump is not going to lock all Muslims out, only the terrorists,” to “It’s the economy, stupid.” I was reminded that Trump is going to tear up the Iran deal on his first day in office, Hillary Clinton is a liar and I’m an idiot.

None of this comes as a revelation. But a few readers raised an issue that I believe bears reflection: (more…)

Appeasing the crocodile

Appeasing the crocodile

To the approximately 30 percent of American Jews who supported, voted for and have celebrated Donald Trump’s win; and to the approximately 75 percent of my fellow Iranian-American Jews who are part of the 30 percent:

Congratulations. Your guy won. I respect the election results as I respect your right to your opinion and your vote. I also understand your past frustration with a president you did not like, and current excitement about having your candidate win. I experienced similar sentiments throughout the Bush years and in the aftermath. For the record, I don’t believe, as some on the left have said, that everyone who voted for Trump is a bigot or a misogynist or worse. I understand that some people on the left and right are what the media call one-issue voters — lower taxes, disgust with Washington, the candidate’s business savvy, the environment and so on. I also understand that just because you voted for a candidate does not mean you agree with or approve of everything about him or all of his policies. I, for example, was not at all pleased with Hillary Clinton’s cozy relationship with the Goldman Sachses of the world. But for me, that wasn’t a deal breaker. I voted for her despite that flaw. (more…)

Me, myself and the blue couch

Me, myself and the blue couch

I must be the only person in the world who works so hard at doing nothing all day. I think about this from time to time. Actually, I think about it every day, with varying degrees of consternation. And I thought about it in the days leading up to Yom Kippur this year — how I may well have wasted the last 25 years, why I’ve done this “nothing” so assiduously for so long, whether I continue to engage in it out of constraint, or love, or lack of courage and imagination. (more…)

When in France…

When in France…

The little storm in a teacup last week in France — burqini or no burqini? — is emblematic of a much larger, existential question: Should a person be free to choose oppression?

For the uninitiated, the burqini is similar to a wetsuit but made of lighter material; it covers the whole body, including the head, leaving out only the feet, hands and face. If you’ve ever been to a coed beach in summertime in a Muslim country, you’ve seen the floating tents that bob up and down along the shoreline — women trying to swim or cool off with their clothes and their chador wrapped around them. It’s not very practical, and it may even be unsafe: one’s limbs may get caught in all that fabric, but what’s an observant woman to do? How else is she going to satisfy both her religious duty and her desire to swim? One alternative is to divide the beach, the way the Islamic government did in Iran — just curtain off sections of the sea and let women bathe in whatever costume they want. The other, it seems, is the burqini. (more…)

Hillary Clinton’s rise reminds me of voices from the past

Hillary Clinton’s rise reminds me of voices from the past

My freethinking French grandmother, having raised herself during the first world war while her parents were away serving the nation, believed wholeheartedly in the value of financial and professional independence for a woman. When she met my grandfather in the early 1930s in Paris, she was the rare, beautiful, young girl whose ambition transcended a good marriage and a solid family. She had what she believed was a great career for a woman — that of a secretary in a business office. For this, she had turned down many a proposal from local men, and she would have kept turning them down because she loved her job so much. If she married my grandfather, stopped working and followed him to Iran, she once said, it was to go on an adventure even greater than what she was already living. (more…)

The drunken pigeons of Waiheke Island

The drunken pigeons of Waiheke Island

There’s a bird native to New Zealand called the kereru, a larger than usual pigeon with a green-and-purple head, neck and wings, and a healthy-size white breast, that gets high on its own fumes. In warm weather, it gorges on berries till it can barely move, then sits in the sun to digest the fruit. The berries ferment to alcohol, and the kereru gets plastered.

Which brings me to Bernie Sanders. (more…)

The most beautiful women in the world

The most beautiful women in the world

On my mother’s vanity table, all smooth mahogany and beveled mirrors, the pancake powder smelled like ball gowns and midnight music. The lipstick, crimson velvet in a lacquered tube, left a telltale stain on my hands no matter how many times I washed them before my parents came home. The top drawer was filled with wire rollers and hairpins, bottles of Clinique skin cream and cases of Max Factor eye shadow. The middle drawer was stuffed with faded paperbacks and blue airmail envelopes that carried letters from my mother’s older sister in New York. In the bottom drawer there was only a booklet of 5-by-7 postcards, attached at the edges so that they folded into a 3-inch pile or fanned out accordion-like, and that bore pictures of what my mother called, almost reverently, “The Most Beautiful Women in the World.” (more…)

The great minds from Iran

The great minds from Iran

The director of the Mars Project. The first female space tourist. The first woman honored with the Fields Medal (the highest honor in mathematics). The inventor of LASIK. The inventor of the gas laser. The inventor of Fuzzy Logic.

All Iranian Americans of Muslim descent.

YouTube. Bizrate. Shopzilla. Uni-Mart.

All companies founded or co-founded by Iranian Americans of Muslim descent. (more…)