With love, unfortunately, comes hate and hate seems to be a strong contrasting element that the world cannot rid itself of no matter how hard it tries. Love and hate carry on the way peace and war continue to rage on, with war ultimately seeming to win. What is amazing about love and hate is that they are two raw human emotions that transcend culture, language, race, religion, and place. Every one in every place can experience love and hate regardless of their life circumstances; these opposites bring people together in one moment and rip them apart in another.
In a recent and relevant example of hate championing love, the world watched as the United States presented two candidates for president that seemed to continually present this “love-hate” paradox. During the 2016 presidential campaign when hate was spewed from the mouth of Donald J. Trump, there were moments when much of the world thought it was unreal. Trying to imagine what parallel universe this type of rhetoric was found in, many people remembered Nazi Germany and were afraid of what was to come. Amidst this dystopian portrayal of the United States of America, there were things that will stay forever within the popular opinion and popular memory. While many comments resonated as xenophobic, homophobic, transphobic, and Islamophobic, Donald Trump was able to take it farther and even made comments that were Iranophobic. While Iran as a country is not typically considered to be romantic like France, nor is the language a traditional love language like Italian, nor does it evoke strong popular emotion as a place to take a romantic getaway, like say a resort in Mexico, it nevertheless has a strong history of love, passion, and romance.
The brilliant Persian poets Rumi and Hafez would be irate to hear that their homeland has become synonymous with words that are rooted in hatred. These Persian poets brought to the world art that has been celebrated for generations, and in a second these generations were brought to their knees.
Iran, Trump said, is a “terrorist state.” Iran … a terrorist state?
Many times, throughout the three debates, Iran … not the “Iran Deal” … not the government’s policies. But Iran, the whole country, was defamed as a propagator of terrorism. While there were many horrific things said throughout the debates, this one resonates deep, because it allowed an entire country, an entire culture, and those Persians who left in the diaspora, to be called terrorists. In a split second, anyone who was even remotely affiliated with the Persia of old or the Iran of new was condemned to another label that they do not deserve. Yes, needle in a haystack of a difficult election, but the ramifications of this type of rhetoric and hate speech are deep. What did a comment like that make millions, if not billions, of people believe? This is hate at work.
With this type of hate at work, what does this mean for love, and why can hate so easily be projected from one person onto another? Maybe the country’s history has made its people resilient to what the rest of the world says, maybe its people simply refuse to engage with a country who it has had poor relations with, or maybe none of this is significant in the grand scheme of things?
What is meaningful is the contrasts of love and hate, war and peace, and illusion versus reality. The intersectionality of all people and the idea of overlapping social identities is at play now more than ever before in history. People are not just American, Egyptian, Italian, or anything printed on a passport. Human beings are multifaceted by nature and complex beyond understanding. Iranian people, like the rest of the planet are multifaceted and a part of a larger schema than the one so often negatively presented. People of all countries and places hold multiple identities, and the understanding that there is an intersectional crossing of these identities is what makes these old poets relevant today.
Rumi and Hafez, two of the most famous Persian poets, have shed light on what it means to be a human and why this experience is so beautiful, and at times, so painful. They understood, well before many people, that love is one of the most powerful forces in the universe. What is so amazing about these ancient Persian mystics is that they are true romantics; they are able to transcend time and place, and bring together emotions and feelings that are beyond the confines of religion, race, ethnicity, and culture. Across these dimensions, Rumi’s poems articulate what it feels like to be fully alive. Hafez brilliantly shows through his prose the depths of love that encompass the entire human experience. The poems of these grand poets show that the Iranian identity and reality is the same as the rest of the world and that no matter the state of any situation that love is bound to trump hate. No pun intended.