There are some major misconceptions about the country of Iran. It's true that Iran is an Islamic Republic ruled by fanatical theologians and administered by an extremist Revolutionary Guard who make up about a quarter of the military. To think these groups don't have the support of the population is incorrect.
There is a layer of sophisticated propaganda and carefully crafted media presentation which is extremely successful in molding the opinion of that population.
About 60 percent of the country is under the age of 30. This group has access to all types of information as to what is going on in the world. But, by virtue of carefully detailed manipulation of facts, the regime is able to maintain the support of the young people.
We should be aware that Iranians see the U.S. as a country of great extremes, with a few extremely wealthy plutocrats, a quarter of the population in poverty and a third of it suffering from obesity.
To the Iranians, our political, economic, and diplomatic agendas are corrupt and criminal. They sincerely believe we are the Great Satan, "the sin which continues to foul the earth."
We are known around the world as warlike conquerors, with our troops spread everywhere, including close to their country. (Imagine Mexican Corps massing on our border ready to swing into El Paso, Tucson and Phoenix. Or the Canadians ready to plunge into Washington and take over Seattle.)
The Iranians make great use of negating and belittling our influential and relatively effective gay pride organizations. Theirs is a country where homosexuals, rapists and adulterers are occasionally stoned, impaled or even disappear.
As for Israel, the Iranians justify their supposed pursuit of nuclear weaponry by mollifying the populous into thinking if the Jews have it, so should they. There is also a tremendous amount of sympathy and support from certain countries because Iran is standing up to the major powers and thumbing their noses as them despite sanctions.
We don't too often see that type of information in the American media. To some of the third and fourth world countries, Iran stands as the Jack against the Giant.
It's a very scary situation where you have the ayatollahs with itchy fingers around bombs. Calmer heads in the regime realize any use of a nuclear weapon, if after being developed, would wipe Iran off the map, with the exception of the Abidjan area on the Persian Gulf where the oilfields and pipelines are located. Isn't that ironic? Oops! Thanks BP and Exxon.
In the 1990s I spent some time in a country bordering Iran. I had the occasion to become friends with a failed Iranian religious scholar. He had been dismissed because of his strong opinions about the regime, not for his lack of scholarship.
He was amused with what took place in the name of religious study. The holy city of Qom has many schools of this nature. At some of them the scholarship involved things as disparate as Taoism; Zoroastrianism; astrology; the works of Maimonides, a 12th century Spanish Jew who was a rabbi and a philosopher; and Mariolatry, the excessive worship of the Virgin Mary.
The ayatollahs were able to establish from the latter a concept which can be roughly broken down into English to something called "opprobrium." This makes a tenet or philosophy contrary to their beliefs disrespected and even disgraced. They used this effectively to contain and suppress any ideas against their regime. The same policy is in effect today. (There are very few Virgin Mary statuettes in Iran.)
We Americans are also used to being manipulated by such entities as teachers, ethnic, professional, business and religious associations and lobbies. Some of these groups, such as AIPAC and the gay pride people have undue influence when it comes to the actual members they represent.
We should be constantly aware there are times we are being influenced, and not for the betterment of ourselves, but for special interests.
Keep your eyes and ears open. Don't be swayed by emotion. Above all, think things through before you form an opinion.
Bert Copiae is a Fredonia resident.