Monday, August 07, 2006

The "Week in Review" inspires a personal anecdote

Yesterday, the New York Times Week in Review featured an article about Iran titled "The Fine Art of Hiding What You Mean to Say." The lede:

It is certainly unfair to accuse all Iranians of being liars. The label is judgmental and reeks of stereotype. The more appropriate way to phrase the Iranian view toward honesty, the way many Iranians themselves describe it, is to say that being direct and telling the truth are not prized principles in Iran.

The article then goes on to explain why the Iranians are, in fact, huge liars and details the exculpatory reasons for this.

Now for my anecdote:

When I was in seventh grade I had an Iranian friend. We'll call him Abdul. One day Abdul invited me to come to his house after school for video games and basketball.

I got off the bus with him, in a strange neighborhood, and he walked me towards a 8,000 square foot house. This was before the McMansion thing, when 8,000 square feet actually meant something.

As we walked up the long driveway Abdul, bursting with pride, asked me what I thought of his house. I said I thought it was big. When we reached the front door we found it to be locked. My friend rang the bell a couple of times and then gave up. "Let's go to my aunt's house," he said. "She lives around the corner and has a key."

So we did. Abdul's aunt's house was normal sized for the neighborhood -- meaning about five bedrooms four bathrooms. She greeted him in what was probably Farsi. After a short conversation I obviously didn't understand Abdul took me upstairs to his cousin's room to play video games. "My aunt doesn't have the key, but my parents will be home in a couple hours."

As we played tecmo bowl in his cousin's room, I noticed that the windbreaker hanging on the back of his cousin's desk chair was the same style as the one Abdul often wore to school. I was also confused how Abdul could have a cousin I had never seen or heard of -- but who, judging from the things in his room was around our age.

When an older, female cousin greeted us from the hallway and my friend offered her no explanation as to what we were doing in his cousin's room, I realized that we were, of course, in his house and in his room and I had probably met his mother and sister.

I waited for Abdul to explain his bizarre and naked ruse. He never even hinted at doing so-- even though I peppered him with inquiries as to when we were go back to the original house.

The next day at school I asked the other kids who lived in his neighborhood, about what had gone down. They confirmed my suspicion and added he often pretends that the bigger house is his "parents" and could do so because it is currently unoccupied.

Since that day I have been lied to by people of just about every religion and ethnic background. Yet the lie my Iranian friend told me stands alone in terms of reckless audacity, a complete disregard for the concept of a truth and, most bafflingly, a lack of the simple, pacifying phrase "I'm just kidding" when I confronted him.

After the lie, my opinion of Abdul diminished greatly.

Now if I had been privy to yesterday's New York Times article back then I would have known it was not his fault he chose to insult my intelligence by trying to pass off such a sloppy deception. Rather, the blame lay at the feet of the imperialism of the Arabs, the Mongols, the French and the British.


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