The Thing I’m Doing This Year #28
I went to Southern California for a series of matches between our men and the Iranian National Team in the USA Volleyball Cup. We had just won the World League, a great victory, and Iran made it to the semifinals their best finish ever. There is a large population of Iranians in SoCal and they all bought tickets to see their team for the first time in the U.S. for volleyball in 35 years.
I went with the Iranian delegation to the Los Angeles City Hall where the city council would recognize both teams with a proclamation. We took a limo. It was a nice limo, but a limo that undoubtedly has been used for other festivities. It was not difficult to imagine a car filled with a bachelor party and one or two entertainers. The thought of which made me smirk … would our five Iranian friends love that party or hate that party?
Some people don’t appreciate strippers.
When we arrived, the Iranians pulled out their cameras taking pictures of this and that. I grouped them together, posed them, moved them and took a picture of them looking up at Millard Sheets’ mural, “The Family of Man,” installed in 1971. I liked the mural at first glance because it was colorful. Lots of diverse people depicted, but other than that, I didn’t know anything about the mural.
Then I Googled it. The artist wrote, “We need now and always to understand the great cultures of other people. Most of our prejudices and bigotry result from abysmal ignorance of other people.”
The mural depicts figures that symbolize the cultures of Islam, Japan, Africa, China and many others.
“By depicting the dignity of all races … we create respect of man’s infinite variety and purpose to live,” the artist wrote. I read those quotes to the Iranians.
We entered the city council chambers and it is impressive; it looks like a Great Hall in Big Sur or something. Just beautiful. Two rows ahead of us is a young man wearing a Batman mask and the American flag as a cape.
I explain to the Iranians that Batman would never desecrate the flag like that.
After we receive our proclamations, we head to a side room for photos and media. There are only a couple media representing local Iranian publications. One question, “Do you think events like our volleyball matches could help bring our two countries together?” One of the Iranian officials is panicky. He thought that they were asking negative political questions. He wants me to counter those questions by writing a press release about … I don’t know … I, of course don’t do that.
The media has the last word and a press release is a pretty weak weapon. Afterwards, I tell him. Don’t worry so much about the questions. In America, our media can ask whatever they want and we can’t and don’t want to control what they ask. I said, you need to train your officials how to respond regardless of the question. The media can ask whatever they want but you control the answers.
He says, “You need to come back with me to Iran.”
The next stop was another proclamation, this time in the City of Anaheim. We sit upfront and the city council starts with the Pledge of Allegiance and then an invocation.
Afterwards, I ask the Iranian PR person from Washington D.C., what do your guys think of the Pledge and the prayer. I was wondering if they thought we were some kind of nationalistic, jingoistic, religious fanatics. And the PR guy said, not at all, coming from Iran, they all assumed that all Americans were godless heathens.
I thought, well not all of us.
In the bus, I ask Hooman what he thought. He was impressed. He liked the prayer and liked that we “showed respect to the flag” with the pledge.
The next installment … “It’s Over, I Quit”