Commentary

Collective Amnesia

Journalists from every major broadcasting channel flock to it enthusiastically, trying to get the first scoop. It’s plastered all over the front pages of newspapers. TVs hum with reports discussing it. What is it? It’s news. If it’s big news, pictures of it will flash on your TV. If it’s really big news, Larry King will interview it. After a while, the news will get old and reporters will steadily move towards other things to exploit the twenty-four hour news cycle. Unless that first piece of news does something really exciting, like take its shirt off in public or check itself into rehab, nobody’s going to care anymore. Our dear old piece of news will be comfortably forgotten after people cease to scream it at us through a TV screen. Now, no one is showing us footage of tanks blowing up or of innocent lives being taken. It’s easy to forget things when you are isolated from them. I, like many others, am a self-confessed victim of the collective amnesia that is sweeping America. After all, who can really recall how we got into this Iraq debacle in the first place? One minute we’re sitting on the couch, minding our own business, not invading another country on the basis of very shaky evidence. Next thing you know, some guy comes on TV and uses really big, scary phrases like “weapons of mass destruction” and “threat to the American lives.” You all know how it went down from there. Unfortunately, the events we choose to forget are often important ones. We either forget because it has nothing to do with us, or because it’s not screaming at us from every corner. I’m sure my friend from Indonesia would appreciate it if I reminded you of the people still suffering from natural disasters. That’s already been forgotten. And I don’t think my friends from GSA will forget the National Equality March in DC anytime soon but that seems to be forgotten as well. And does anyone really know how the it all started in Darfur? How can that already be forgotten when it only happened in 2003? Well, I’d like to add my country (well, one of them anyway) to the list of those almost-forgotten things. It seems to me that, today, the name “Iran” is almost synonymous with “nuclear threat” and “uranium enrichment.” For a brief window of time this summer, that changed. The Western media focused on the people of Iran and not the government. It seemed as though the “nuclear crisis” was finally taken out of the equation and everyone able to look at Iran itself. After the Iranian presidential elections and the internal unrest that followed, all anyone ever asked me was, “What’s happening in Iran? What do you think of what’s happening?” There was an undeniable hype around these events. It was certainly intensified by the barring of Western journalists from entering Iran. Watching it on the news, I could barely grasp what was happening. Being there was even more surreal. I had seen a good protest or two in my lifetime but nothing could have prepared me for the sight of a whole nation in upheaval. Seeing people who will go out on their rooftops or pop their heads out of the window every single night at 10:30 to shout in unison and condemn a regime that refused to respect their rights, is awe-worthy. Seeing boys and girls my age risk their lives to stand, not against something, but for something. Seeing a lonely shopkeeper stand in front of what was once his store, watching as his livelihood goes up in flames, all because he refused to stay quiet. When tragic events are happening miles away to people who we know nothing about, it’s easy to grow tired of these dreadful things and move on. It’s easy for the media to move on to a new subject, even though, four months later, those people still come out every night at 10:30 to cry out in protest. The things I saw this summer are the things that I will remember forever . No case of severe amnesia or Alzheimer’s could make me forget them. I’m asking you not to forget either, not about Iran, not about the floods in the Philippines, not about the gay rights march. Just because everyone else chooses to forget, doesn’t mean you should too. Tia Baheri is a new Lower from Plano, TX. tbaheri@andover.edu