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Stranger Than Fact: Sean Penn's First Report from Iran By: Judith Weizner
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, June 23, 2005

Wow. I can’t believe it. Well, yes, I can believe it actually – here I am in Iran courtesy of you, Phil, and the San Francisco Chronicle. I don’t know why I said I couldn’t believe it because I can’t think of a single other person who’s more qualified than me to do this job. I mean, I’ve already done everything Hollywood has to offer and what could be more natural for someone with my background than to report on free elections in Iran? Anyway, thank you, good buddy. This place is awesome!

After I rested up I went to a prayer meeting at a mosque to see what the locals were saying about the election. I figured they’d be talking about it between prayers, or maybe before and after. Of course I don’t speak Farsi or Arabic or any of their beautiful languages, but I figured I could get the gist of it, and anyway, the paper got me this great translator who says I should just call him Shahid even though his name is something like Adarhormazd. He said it would be easier to remember. I know I can trust him to be accurate because he’s an official translator, so there’s no chance of his just making it up as he goes along.


The sermon was really remarkable. I can’t believe how much these people are like us, Phil. Shahid told me the Ayatollah was urging his followers to vote in such a way as to make America angry. Do you suppose Howie Dean has been doing any consulting here? Just kidding. Everybody knows the Republicans have the lock on anger.


I’ve been telling people for years that except for the Ayatollahs and all that, the Iranis are exactly like us and every time I turn around I see how right I am. It’s uncanny. To give you an example (see, I haven’t forgotten what you told me about always giving concrete examples) – the day I got here I heard some students chanting “Death to America.” Just like home! But I told one of them I didn’t think it was productive for them to be saying these things because the message goes to the American people who may misunderstand and interpret it literally. I certainly understand the nature of where it comes from and what its intention is, though.


Anyway, as I was saying, the sermon was amazing. This ayatollah is a real orator. With my own ears (well, Shahid’s) I heard him say that President Bush should be killed. Now in this respect it isn’t a bit like home – at home you couldn’t say Bush should be killed because the FBI would break down your door and take you away, but here they can say it. It’s so exciting to be in a place that’s really, truly free.


You’ll be happy to hear that I’ve been getting along extremely well with everyone I meet, but I did have that one little misunderstanding with a policeman who took away my camera for a while. I guess he didn’t recognize me. I must look like one of the locals, so I probably shouldn’t have been surprised. Anyway, as soon as he realized who I am and why I’m here, he gave it back. It was just a brief misunderstanding. Not at all scary. In that respect thisplace is not like home. Their police aren’t remotely like the LAPD who just can’t wait to stick it to a celebrity. They’re much more respectful here.


Shahid said the reason he took my camera was that there was some sort of demonstration going on and they didn’t want just anyone filming it. It had something to do with women’s rights. He said the women want to vote. When I asked him what was so bad about that he told me to keep my decadent thoughts to myself. He sounded just like some right-wing born-again. But then he smiled at me so I knew he was just kidding. I wonder what it was really about. It probably had to do with equal pay and maternal leave or something.


I’ll bet the women here are just like the women at home even though it’s hard to tell under those black dresses and veils. I’ll bet they’re luscious. They all have the most beautiful dark eyes. The men seem very protective of them. I’ll bet the rape statistics are a lot lower than in LA. This society really has a lot going for it.


In fact if we had any brains, we’d listen and learn from them. For example, instead of interfering with their right to build nuclear power plants, we’d watch how they do it and learn something. Not that I’d want a nuclear power plant anywhere near me - windmills are so much better for the environment - but if that’s what they want here I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t have it. It’s just another example of our hubris, trying to keep someone else from having what we have.


I’m so grateful to you for putting me here in the center of it all, watching history unfold as they have their presidential election. You can bet they won’t elect some dorky religious fanatic like Bush. I just can’t wait to report the results.


And that reminds me – you can bet there won’t be any goons hanging around the polls trying to intimidate people by making them show their driver’s license. This will be a free election.


Article to follow.


Best, as always, S.

Judith Weizner is a columnist for Frontpagemag.com.

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