وزارد او دا وستساد
VIZITOR TO THE VESTSIDE
an
American blog of Iranian dissent

Persian Pilgrims

After Iran's Islamic Revolution in 1979, the relatives on my mother's side crossed the Atlantic and somehow landed smack-dab in the boondocks of America's deep south, on the banks of the Carolinas.

We're talking hillbilly country here, folks. Where hee-haw mixed with ab-ha. My grandparents ended up in Mount Airy, NC - hometown of Andy Griffith and where his legendary show was based upon. As a tiny tyke of a terrorist I was sent there for a couple of summers while my mom finished grad school back home in Chicagoland.

Didn't realize it at the time, but stuff got pretty crazy for a moment in 1980 during the height of the Hostage Crisis. Only recently did I hear from a couple of cousins who lived in Mt. Airy about the stories of near-lynching situations. Little did the inhabitants of that small town know that my mother's family weren't the bad guys, being Bahais who were fleeing Iran's new Islamic theocracy to escape religious persecution. Maybe they could have blamed America's southern-fried "peanut farmer" president.

But despite all that, my grandparents and relatives settled in nicely and look back very fondly on their experience in that little town. Says a lot about southern hospitality and charm. You don't have to be educated or even have an open mind to be courteous, respectful and kind - which the same could be said about my mother's family. It's that kind of mannerism that's missing in today's society, which looks down on "fly-over" country.

Now a whole generation of Redneck Middleastern folk have come to be. It's funny to hear extremely Middle Eastern-looking young men and women speak with thick southern accents. Sure, there's Aziz Ansari. But there's also people like Iranian-American filmmaker Ramin Bahrani who made a movie about an immigrant on Tobacco Road while this NASCAR-watching, Falafel-eating upcoming Arab-American YouTuber takes on a race issue in his state's senate race.



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