By David Powell, World BEYOND War, January 7, 2021
There has never been a more opportune time than now for each of us to do our part to develop peace between nations. With the current ubiquitousness of on-line communications spanning the globe, every person with access to a PC or smartphone can share their experiences and insights in seconds, to those both far and near. In a new play on the old adage that “The pen is mightier than the sword”, we might now say that “IMs (instant messages) are faster and more effective than ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles).”
The United States and Iran have spent decades in a tumultuous relationship, including: threats; military provocations; sanctions; improvements in communications and agreements; and then the discard of those same agreements, coupled with the start of yet more sanctions. Now that we are on the brink of a new U.S. administration and an upcoming election cycle in Iran, there is a window of opportunity for promoting fresh and positive change in how our countries relate.
Signing World BEYOND War’s on-line petition to “End Sanctions on Iran” is a great start for anyone to take who has a concern about the relationship between our countries. While that is an earnest plea to the in-coming Biden-led administration to change course, the opportunity also exists for Americans and Iranians to come together to help jump-start this process. Email, Messenger, Skype, and other social media platforms provide individuals and groups in Iran and the United States opportunities to communicate together, learn from each other, and discover ways to act together.
In an update to historical Pen Pal relationships, a small E-Pals program began matching interested individuals from both countries more than 10 years ago – encouraging conversations to learn about the daily lives led by the other Pal, their families, their work or studies, their beliefs, and how they view the world. This has led to new understandings, friendships, and in some cases even face-to-face meetings. This has had a transforming effect on individuals coming from two countries that have developed a history of deep mutual distrust.
While the leaders of our countries continue to act at times as true enemies, the ease of modern communications has provided our citizens the upper hand in encouraging relations. Imagine thousands of regular citizens from both nations practicing respectful communication and developing friendships in spite of the politically-constructed barriers. While this is happening, we can safely assume that there are agencies in both nations that are listening in, watching and reading. Might these eavesdroppers themselves begin to consider the examples set by the many average people who can effectively navigate cultural differences to work at peace together? To take it one step further, what if thousands of those same paired pals would jointly compile letters to both sets of leaders, making it clear to all alike that they are reading the same words as their counterparts? What if those letters earnestly challenged those in power to practice the same types of on-going and open communications as their citizens?
While there is no way to predict the impact on public policy, this type of grassroots peace-building could most certainly sprout into a growing shared culture of peace between the Iranian and American people. Large-scale citizen relationships have to eventually affect the ways our leaders view the potential for mutual trust and cooperation.
We no longer need to just wait on our leaders and ambassadors to bridge the global divides, but each and every one of us has the power to become ambassadors for peace.
This Op-Ed has been provided here to help spur further thoughts on how we can cooperatively promote peace between the US and Iran. In addition to signing the Petition to End Sanctions on Iran, please consider adding your responses and thoughts here as to how all of us together can help to build better relationships between Iran and the U.S. You can utilize these two questions as guidance for your input: 1) How can we as individuals in our two countries work together to develop peace between our countries? and 2) What actions would we like to see both of our governments take in order to reach a sustainable relationship of peace?
We invite your input through these various ways: a one-line quote and your photo for use in a series of social media graphics; a paragraph or more in commenting; or an additional Op Ed such as the one provided here. This is meant to become a discussion board where we all can learn from each other. When you have an idea or thought to provide, please send it to David Powell at email@example.com. In the interest of transparency, a full name is required for each submittal. Please know that the plan is to at some point share these comments/discussions with leaders from both governments.
If you have an interest in becoming an E-Pal as described in the letter above, signing up for following periodic on-line guest lectures from Iranian or American experts on the situation in Iran, or being part of a quarterly zoom chat between Americans and Iranians. please respond to David at firstname.lastname@example.org.