August 7, 2009
Dear Nasinine T.:
Although I am an art historian by métier, I never quite remember dates. But I do remember signal encounters. About two years before the fall of the shah, I was chatting with a couple of architects who were preparing to go to Iran to build dazzling modern structures for—as they say—“the people” of Iran. What! I exclaimed. You will be lunching in the palace with the shah and in the basement his agents will be torturing guys just like you. But of course, they thought I was exaggerating and went away.
At the time, I had found some Iranian students, mostly at Columbia, who were trying to reveal the real situation. I marched with them down Broadway, and learned how to dodge horses and billy sticks. When the “revolution” finally came, these graduate students rushed home to participate. You know the rest, I’m sure. Of about twenty, I know of only one who escaped the zealots and went to Scandinavia. The news of their disappearance was never broadcast here, and I have always had a hollow feeling of despair about how much in my lifetime had been left unrevealed.
The rapidity of Internet news somewhat dims the significance of what really happens… Only accounts such as yours can invade the imaginations of those who are concerned. Please do not abandon the print media (whatever is left, alas) and give us more authentic reportage. An image such as the fascists painting Xs on buildings is worth a thousand emails.