Throwback Thursday: MC Students Stringy, Rude

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March 31, 1980
March 31, 1980

Pete Herbert

I met a foreign student the other night. I had just gotten out of a philosophy class and was walking toward the campus library where I would prepare for the next day’s classes. I was thinking upon the warmth that would greet me upon entering but to my disappointment, I would discover something about Americans which I would find hard to take in and swallow.

When I went in, I sat down across from another student and said hello. He welcomed my greeting by returning it. He was an Iranian student who was reading the evening star for the purpose of brushing up on his english and reading comprehension and to learn something about America and Americans.

I was in the mood to talk; I wanted to put the case I had just gotten out of behind me. As we talked, it became more enjoyable for the two of us. We talked about American culture and society and the contrast with the Middle Eat.

I couldn’t believe it when he told me that I was the first student that he had talked with at any length within the last nine months or so. I just couldn’t believe that this guy had been given such a cold shoulder. I could then see why the notion that this being the friendliest country in the world would have very little meaning to him.

He told me of his impressions of American and of its way of life. His impressions were clear and to the point. I saw Americans in Tehran imprisoned within tiny cells around their bodies, but he saw Americans in Montgomery County imprisoned within the tiny cells of their bodies. The reasons for such a pathetic condition were obvious to him. This country suffers from acute materialism and hedonism coupled with a national sense of international superiority. He had no trouble seeing this fact of 20th century American life.

We talked of values and tradition. As he told me of the importance of patriotism and religious commitment in his country, I thought the naive patriotism which is characteristic and evident in various forms across this country and of the moral and religious values that this country had and has had and what is , and what ought to be.

At first I laughed, but later, I was disturbed when he told me of what he had seen on his visit to our nation’s capitol. On the main street, he had seen a few old men standing by the curb.

Occasionally, one would lift his face toward the sky as he held a bottle to his mouth. You must have seen some of the Districts winos, I thought to myself. Then he went on to tell me how at some stoplights, women would come to the window of the car motioning to him.

He was disgusted. So was I. He went on to tell me that those kind of things just didn’t happen in the capitol city of his home country, at least not out in the open. Out of a sort of desperation and consolation, I told him that he couldn’t judge American on the basis of his visit to her capitol. In his attempt to console me of my distress, he told me the that he had trouble understanding and speaking english and now and then, he would ask an American student for help. He was dejected, however, by the stinginess and rudeness of some of the students at Montgomery college in their unwillingness to give him a helping hand. He old me that he had asked one of the American student what a triangle was. The guy replied, “I don’t know. I’m not a math major.”

Is this visiting Iranian student’s impression of America accurate?Will he return to his country to become a 20th century de Tocqueville?