Lessons from Iran


I can no longer sit here silent about what I have been observing happening in our nation the past few years and what I observed happened at our nation’s capital on Jan. 6 as a result. I have thought hard about writing this opinion piece thinking, “Who the hell am I to share my story.” My story is not unique compared to many other people who were born and raised in third-world countries. However, I have not seen anyone else with this background share their story and observations. Fair warning, what I am sharing with you here will upset many people, especially if you are a fake patriot, which I have been seeing a lot of over the past few years.          

I was born and raised in Iran in the 1970s and was a witness to a revolution at age 6 in a country that had the strongest military in the Middle East at that time and was a strong ally of the United States. Not many thought that those groups of rogue people would be able to overthrow the government of a nation with such military strength. Well, history shows that it happened over a few nights and a government with such a mighty military was overthrown by sticks, stones and Molotov cocktails. At that young age I was not sure or really knew what I was witnessing. Now as an adult and after studying more about the Iranian Islamic revolution, I have a much better understanding and unfortunately I’m seeing many parallels between what happened in Iran in the late ’70s and what’s happening in our nation today.                 

Chiemi McGhie Saam Golgoon is the Mayor of Alma, Colorado.

At that time, Iran was a very wealthy and secular country, thanks to the oil industry and alliances with Western countries, and was becoming very Westernized. However, this wealth was not spread evenly. The rich were getting richer and the poor were getting poorer. The fast Westernization of the country was also viewed and used by some that our culture was being destroyed. As this separation in wealth continued and rapid cultural changes took place, the unrest started happening. But how do you convince a group of people without military strength or training to overthrow a regime who had a very strong military? This was done by manipulating the poor and uneducated/poorly educated through extreme ideology, fear and backing their propaganda by religion. The propaganda was so strong that the Islamic revolutionaries were even able to convince some of the educated and wealthier citizens that the Islamic revolution would benefit everyone and create a much better nation. Sound a little familiar of what we are witnessing in our nation now?                                      

I recall that as a young child I attended a demonstration with my parents. My parents were very well educated (both studied in England), financially stable and not religious. I even recall one of my uncles at that time was attending university in the U.S., and he was convinced that he had to return to Iran for this revolution. How was it that such people with this background and status were convinced momentarily that this was the best thing to do? It was accomplished through consistent misinformation propaganda campaigns. We have been hearing this a lot more lately, that if you tell a lie enough times you can convince people it is the truth. Well, there is a lot of truth to that. Thankfully, my parents caught on quickly that something was not right. That was the only demonstration that we attended, and my parents saw firsthand the very manipulative level of thinking that existed within many of the revolutionaries. I remember after attending that demonstration, my parents contacted my uncle, who resided in the U.S. at that time, telling him to stay put and not to return to Iran.                                             

Words are a powerful tool to spread lies and misinformation. That is what happened in Iran then and it is what is happening in our nation today. Tell a lie enough times and it will become the truth for many. It shook me to my core when in 2016 during a campaign rally, I heard Trump say, “We love the poorly educated.” I realized very quickly that the same techniques that were used in Iran in the late ’70s were now being used here in the U.S. and continue to be used.                               

What I witnessed on my TV screen on Jan. 6 was very disturbing, but unfortunately not surprising to me. I had warned my immediate family and some very close friends something like this would take place. Unfortunately, everything happening in our nation in the past few years has been disturbingly familiar.           

There is so much division in our nation today that I do not know how we can call ourselves the “United” States of America. Some of the responses that I have seen to what happened at our nation’s capital a few days ago are extremely disturbing. To observe some people trying to brush this off or comparing this to what happened during the Black Lives Matter movement is also very concerning. 

Allow me to point out one stark difference between the BLM movement and the insurrection on our nation’s capital. The attack on Jan. 6 was on our Capitol, televised live all over the world. It demonstrated many of our weaknesses to our adversaries around the world. It opened my eyes to some realities that I was not aware of, such as the windows in the Capitol building not being bullet or shatter proof, and not having drop down bullet proof metal gates entering the Senate or the House when there is a security breach in the Capitol. These were just a couple of things I noticed very quickly but imagine what else may have been noticed by the ones around the world who want to cause us harm.                                          

Lastly, I have been hearing some commentary in many different news media outlets regarding if what we witnessed at our nation’s capital was a beginning of something or an end. I hate to be the messenger of bad news, but what we witnessed on Jan. 6 is a beginning of something much worse if we do not learn from the mistakes of other nations such as my motherland.                                    

Why do I speak so frankly and passionately about the recent happenings in our nation? Why this from a foreign-born American citizen? To answer these questions, I want you to think about something first. What does it take for people from nations that were adversely affected by U.S. foreign policy and activities to want to immigrate to the U.S. and become a productive part of society in this great nation? It is not because we know all American citizens would welcome us with open arms. To me it is one thing and one thing alone; it is the foundation of this country, which is based on a very special document, the U.S. Constitution. There are not very many documents in the world or throughout history that are this powerful and special. “We the People” are the three most powerful words that most individuals can believe in.  

Saam Golgoon is mayor of the Town of Alma, Colorado.

This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.