Dasha. Photo by Tania. Used with permission.
If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution.
So said Emma Goldman more than 100 years ago.
Witness the immortal march towards bliss released in an Iranian spring on the roofs of Tehran. From the seed of civilization laughter echoes through our universal soul. We click our safe monitors and there they are, our "enemy" dancing, laughing, happy. Maybe they didn't want anyone else to see it. They knew the risks. But it happened. And of those arrested, as of this writing, there still remains in jail the director of this video. Who will stand for happiness; for the courage of song and dance? According to some reports, the families of all of the participants have been threatened. They can't talk to the media, as if the world does not already know a tyrant's impotence when they see it. The powerless mullahs believe God is on their side, but they are terrified by smiles and cool dancing; terrified of women revealing their glorious humanity. They are aghast at men who delight in being, well, happy. News reports claim that thousands of Iranians have been arrested over the years for celebrating at parties. What is the penalty for that crime?
But lest we be smug here in the west think of the wildfire movements emanating from the patriarchy of the John Birch Society in the U.S. (Koch Brothers' Tea Party) or the National Front in France, British National Party and let us never forget our lovable National Socialists who reside under the rubble of broken hopes and dreams worldwide, yearning to reaffirm themselves in a tornado of discontent.
Here, in the United States, there are daily sounds in the public chambers of hate that deny all that is alive. Rush Limbaugh and his ilk. Like their cousin mullahs in Iran they constantly refer to their holy books to justify repressing light. If it were up to them, they, too, would cover women head to toe, keep children in their place and purify the filth of literature, arts and music from our heart. That repression gives new meaning to Cole Porter's Night and day, you are the one, beneath the moon and under the sun.
Lucky for us, we still have an enlightened blueprint of a social contract to help guide us and sometimes we even pay attention to it. The Constitution. And we can still dance and be happy as long as we don't threaten the power of those few who believe they are immortal as a result of amassing unimaginable fortunes. Imagine, if you will, we become so ecstatic that our essence can no longer obey any hint of repression. Then imagine living in a culture that even the thought of joy can get you arrested for a crime against humanity.
There is, indeed, a war going on in the world. But it isn't religious. It isn't about terrorism. It is a war between love and shadow. For hatred can only exist when the shades are pulled tight. We deny our humanity during each moment we believe we are not of the same "stuff" as our so-called enemies. When we designate people we cannot understand to be the "other." We refuse to acknowledge that we, too, are capable of horrifying deeds. I know that my words may be unpopular. Some would ask if I identify with the Nazis? Or do I waltz with the Taliban? Could you intentionally kill innocents? Perhaps not I personally, but I am a citizen of a country that does the latter on a frequent basis and we call it collateral damage. It is our name on that drone that killed a wedding party on a suspicion that there might be future terrorists lurking in their midst.
Every once in a while life reveals to us why we breathe. Those courageous young people in the gun sight of the Iranian Guard lifted a universal fog for a brief luminous moment. They laughed and danced and we once again saw human elegance shimmering through flames. Four years ago, thousands of Iranians were running to the roofs of their apartment buildings to scream, God is Great to protest a corrupt election. They knew that many of them would be arrested and some even killed for daring to cast their light, yell into the darkness a yearning to be free. And the consequences of their audacity came to pass. Yet, it continues. I always ask myself would I have such courage in the face of this kind of terror? We have our own examples of heroism to inspire us. The freedom riders of the 50s and 60s; the demonstrators who knew that if they were captured by the police they could be lynched on the way to jail; the people who came out from safe anonymity into the red heat of Mississippi's hell to vote and assert their rights. They, too, were singing and dancing, constantly moving towards a higher plane. It seems to be a universal code. Witness the children of Soweto in South Africa reverberate the impoverished air with music as they bring down apartheid or the children of Birmingham, Alabama ("Bombingham") evading powerful water jets chanting their songs in paddy wagons as they were taken away.
Our Persian brethren remind us that we all have a choice. The choice may seem impossible, but it is a choice nevertheless. Do we pretend to be numb or do we seek the sun? We may not always succeed, but the journey is a dance we deserve. As Martha and the Vandellas once declared, let us all dance in the streets. You never know.