This isn’t a sad story.
My name is Mina Salehpour, and I was born in 1985 in Teheran, Iran.
In 1996, my parents decided to leave the country and immigrated to Germany, where my aunts were living, since they had left Iran after the Islamic Revolution.
So I became German, which wasn’t as easy as it might sound now.
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I will be honest: As a kid, I was often told (by Iranian authorities, not by my family) that America is responsible for lots of bad things in the world; for example, the Gulf War (Iran vs. Iraq), and so on. I never really questioned that.
Then, as a teenager, one day I came back from school earlier, because something had happened in New York City, something so important that even in faraway Bavaria, school kids were sent home earlier.
We all know what happened, and I can remember that, from one moment to another, my family and I were not Germans anymore, even though we had German passports.
People started staring at me in the bakery; my ID was checked whenever I was in a rail station; I wasn’t allowed to visit Croatia with my classmates because I couldn’t get a tourist visa, all because of my background. And a guy called George W. Bush called the place my granny lived “the axis of evil,” just before his troops marched into Iraq and started a new war!
I was angry — an angry teenager. I wasn’t responsible for the things happened on 9/11. I wasn’t guilty. Why was everybody from certain countries a suspect now?
I went to demonstrations against the Iraq War, and I even gave a very angry “speech” at one of the get-togethers. I just couldn’t understand why something that cruel could happen to innocent people in New York, and the reaction was cruel, as well.
Visit sparks change in perspective
Although I love, love, love American rock ’n’ roll and heavy metal, and I am crazy about Broadway shows and obsessed with “The Big Bang Theory” and Jonathan Safran Foer, I decided to never visit the U.S.A. because American people obviously hated me.
Well, then I grew up, started to work at theater and became a director. And another guy got elected, Barack Obama. I want to tell you that I won’t judge American presidents and what they did or didn’t do for their country, but I can tell you that I was inspired and felt invited by the new president. My whole opinion about the people in the U.S.A. changed, because of the decision their majority had made.
Finally, in summer 2014, my husband and I started a five-week trip from New York to San Francisco and L.A., and it was the best journey of my life (and I have been to a lot places, all over the planet, believe me).
One day, we ended up in a small town called Cambria and went to a place called the Bluebird Inn, and the lady behind the desk looked at my German passport and asked me in German, “Well, that’s not a typical German name, is it?” She turned out to be the nicest German-American Lady!
I have never been prouder to be a German than at that moment, meeting a German immigrant, because I had never met one — only immigrants in Germany, but no immigrants from Germany. My husband and I spent 10 days in Cambria (although we had just wanted to stay for two days).
We met Eric, who took us to a private birthday party where we met the incredible, talented Jake, Rachel, Ashlyn and Bobby, and lots of other welcoming young people. We spent a few nights at the Bridge Street Inn, which had been warmly recommended by my friends back home in Hannover!
We met Todd and Mary and Brandon, who took us to a trip to San Luis Obispo and showed me what real s’mores are like. We met Sunshine the cat. We made some good friends.
A few days ago, President Donald Trump decided that I am not a friend any longer, but an enemy.
I wasn’t allowed to enter the U.S. Embassy in Berlin to ask whether I could get a visa.
I wasn’t responsible. I wasn’t guilty.
I am not a terrorist. I am not a Muslim. But I was born in a certain country.
I got very angry again.
This time, I wrote a brief, desperate message to my friends in Cambria and New York. A few people shared the message and a few answered, tried to comfort me.
This time, I didn’t have to wait for a new president to know that America doesn’t hate me.
Dear reader, please listen to me. This is not a sad story. It’s a story of how knowing each other helps to overcome prejudices. Both ways.
Dear reader, please do not judge people by race, gender or religion.
We all know what happened last time an elected leader of a country decided that a whole religious community was guilty! Lots of young Americans, among others, lost their lives to stop him.
We cannot fight religious fanatics with fascism. We can do better.
This is not only an American issue but an international one.
Now the same fascists try to get to European Parliaments again, because they feel encouraged by the decision President Trump and his followers made.
I know that a lot of people are afraid of Islamic terrorism and, yes, it is one of the biggest threats of our times, but the cure is not to ban family members, tourists, businessmen and women, or (if we are honest) half of the German national soccer team, or the mayor of London.
This is not fighting terrorism. This is only hurting people’s feelings, and this is gonna be a sad story.
Dear reader, Democrat or Republican, I hope to see you soon. Whenever. Wherever.
Mina Salehpour’s Viewpoint is special to The Cambrian