Playing Brando in Isfahan

At NRO’s Corner yesterday, Michael Ledeen drew attention to an article by Steven Knipp on Knipp’s two-week visit to Iran. The article was buried in the Washington Post’s travel section. Ledeen contrasts Knipp’s travel section piece with the stuff provided in the A section by Karl Vick, the Post’s man in Tehran:

The WaPo’s candidate for the Walter Duranty Prize, for his incessant propaganda on behalf of the mullahs and its leading light, President Ahmadinejad, must be grinding his teeth today. If you look at the “Travel” Section of the Post, you’ll see a simple, straightforward bit of reportage.

The bottom line is that the Iranian people love America, and they do not, not, not, like Ahmadinejad.

Live with it, Karl. At least they tried to hide it in “Travel” instead of putting it up front, where it belongs.

Here is the Post’s non-Vick summarizing his two-week visit to Iran:

Everywhere I went — from the traffic-choked streets of Tehran in the north to the dusty desert town of Yazd in central Iran, to the elegant cultural centers of Isfahan and Shiraz — I was overwhelmed by the warmth and, dare I say it, pro-Americanism of the people I met.

Ponder the irony of that last statement for a moment. While much of the rest of the world seems to be holding their collective noses at us Americans, in Iran people were literally crossing the road to shake an American’s hand and say hello. Who knew?

Initially, when Iranians asked me where I was from, I’d suggest they guess. But this game quickly proved too time-consuming — no one ever guessed correctly. So instead I would simply mumble “American.” And then their faces would light up. For better or worse, Iranians are avid fans of America: its culture, films, food, music, its open, free-wheeling society.

The Post’s non-Vick gives the following example from a small stall at the bazaar in Isfahan:

I was nonchalantly eyeing a carpet while the young rug merchant looked on sleepily. But when I responded to his casual question about where I was from, he became as energetic as an 8-year-old near an ice cream truck. Straight away, he launched into a virtual love sonnet to all things Hollywood.

“Do you agree,” he pressed, “that Marlon Brando was the greatest actor in the world?”

Indeed he was, I granted, slowly edging toward the exit. But he beckoned me back. Reaching under his desk, he pulled out a large paperback, which turned out to be a well-thumbed Brando biography…in Persian.

He turned the pages with gentle reverence, gesturing at specific photos of the Great Man. Then, holding his hand up in a “don’t go” gesture, he broke into an impersonation of Brando doing Don Corleone. “Ya come to meee on desse de day of ma daughter’s wadding . . . ” It was the worst Brando impersonation I’ve ever heard, but surely the most heartfelt.


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