Persian Americans

July 2016

Last week, I was at a supermarket eating area (New Seasons in Beaverton) with a friend, and the topic of Trump came up. A man sitting behind me overheard, pushed his chair over, and joined in the conversation.

He didn't understand why so many Americans would be so willing to put their democracy and rights at risk by voting for Trump. He had a noticeable accent, so I asked about his country of origin. He hesitated and said he was a Persian American, stressing both words. He wanted us to know he was a citizen but wasn't comfortable with us knowing he was Iranian.

I told him to relax - that he was among friends who know that most people from Iran are Persian. He seemed to be embarrassed and said, “Most Americans think I'm an Arab.” I said that we knew the difference, and we don't dislike either Persians or Arabs. He looked relieved.

Then we had a good conversation about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the nuclear deal, Israel, and Iranian olive oil. He let us know that most Iranian people liked Americans and thought the nuclear deal was a positive step. That Iranian Americans generally disliked Ahmadinejad. I liked this guy.

After about a half-hour, he said that he'd like to introduce us to his wife. She was sitting behind me and I didn't know she was there. I turned. A good looking woman with stylish clothes and perfect makeup. A contrast to her husband. She was reading a newspaper and looking bored. She said, with almost no accent, “He does this all the time - talks to people he doesn't know.”

I asked, “So, where did you live on the East Coast? New York?”   They both looked surprised, and he said, “Yes, New York. How did you know?”

I said, “I used to live in New York. It takes them a while to warm to strangers.” He smiled. She looked a little insulted and went back to her reading. She'll eventually divorce him, I thought.