So yesterday, when I was getting ready to be surgerized, I started interrogating my nurse, basically because she was in the room, I was bored, and I couldn't reach any of the toys on the counter or the supply cart. (I'm a horrible patient...always have been.)
I saw that the nurse's name was Mitra. I asked her where she was from and she told me that she was from Iran. I asked her when she came here and she said ten years ago. Now she's in her 50's I'm figuring that there's a story here. She's trying to ask me questions about my medical history, so I tell her that I'll trade her an answer for an answer. She asked when my last meal was, and I told her that it was a Wendy's Bacon Double Cheeseburger with extra onions that I grabbed at the drive-through and scarfed down in the hospital parking lot below because no one had bothered to call me and let me know that the doctor was running two hours late. (I could have finished all my grocery shopping while still on two feet...sigh.)
Now it's my turn, I said. Do you remember much about the revolution in 1979 when the Shah left and the Ayatollahs took over? She stopped what she was doing and looked at me. I told her that I was curious to hear her opinions about the changes that took place. How was it different before and after for the average people?
I told you that I'm a horrible patient.
What I got for an answer was roughly a ten-minute tale about Mitra's life in Iran. She'd just graduated from the university in Tehran when the revolution came. She told me how before the revolution, people thought that the Shah was bad, but looking back, people had so much more freedom, especially women. But that freedom went away, and the Basij came into being, hundreds of thousands of government agents who were everywhere and saw everything that you did. If you did not dress right or said the wrong thing about the government, or if you acted "too western", they would take you away or take anything that you had that they wanted. She told me that it was really bad on the universities because that's where the young were the most connected to the west and they resented losing their clothes, their music and their whole way of life. And she told me about her sister's son who was 15 years old when the Basij arrested him for speaking out against the government. He was taken to prison and held without any sort of trial for ten years, and then when he was 25, the family was called and told to come to the prison with three thousand dollars. They thought that he was finally being released, but when they got there, they were told that he'd been hanged, and that the three thousand dollars was to pay for the hanging and that if they didn't pay it, they couldn't have the body back. There were tears in the corners of her eyes as she told me this story, and now none of the hospital stuff mattered any more. She wanted to tell these stories and I wanted to hear them.
She told about how you could not go anywhere in Iran without seeing Basij--they were everywhere and they always look as if they want to kill you. If someone has a grudge against you, they can make up lies to the Basij and say that you were anti-government and the Basij would come and take you away and give the person who reported you a reward.
So how did you get out of there, I asked.
She told me that because she was a nurse, she could travel more freely than most women. She was able to go attend to a sister in Turkey who was having a baby, and while she was there she applied to come to the US at the US embassy in Ankara. She said that it was the day before Christmas, and she was selected from many people who were waiting, and she could not even return back to Iran to say goodbye to her family or get any of her things, because they would never have let her leave again. So she came here with basically nothing but her international nursing license and had to work to support herself while waiting to become licensed as a nurse here. Then she went on to tell me how America is the best place ever, because there is so much freedom. "Here, everyone does whatever they want, and there is no Basij. The police are helpful and kind here and they don't kill you. In Iran, everyone is scared of the police, but not here. Here they are good." And now she was smiling.
I'd have loved to ask more questions, but another member of the surgical team came in and the discussion had to stop. But it was an awesome story, and I wish that I could write it all down as I heard it, because I'm not doing it justice here. But it definitely underscores the difference between America and many parts of the rest of the world, and it shows that even now, despite what the American left and the Eurotrash media says, America is still a shining city on a hill for people around the world who can appreciate freedom simply because they have none.