Just home from work, Tony steps into my office with a white box.
"I thought you might want to see this," he says.
Curious, I take the box and pull out a strangely beautiful clock of elaborate design.
"Where did you get this?" I ask.
"A professor sent it from Iran, a thank-you for reviewing journal papers."
I turn the clock in my hands and observe the craftsmanship. I'm captivated not only by the intricate inlay, but by the rough, unfinished edges. Such contrast. I run my fingers along the smooth edges heavily varnished and the wooden cuts left un-sanded. I see an Iranian artist or perhaps a woman on an assembly line glueing or perhaps painting with delicate strokes the feathers on a bird or the leaves on a flower.
Such beauty. Such beauty that came at the crossroads of old American wounds, even a wound I still felt.
I am preparing for crossroad #3 in our study of moments that solidified the Islamic movement towards radicalism. Number three is the the return of Ayatollah Khomeini to Iran. That his return could oust the westernized Shah and establish the first Islamic state infuses the Jihadists with proof it can be done.
The proof came with violence aimed especially at the United States. Students in Tehran seized the American embassy and took 60-plus, people hostage. The Iranian hostage crisis lasted 444 days and was at the forefront of America's concerns. How could this crazed country get away with holding American citizens hostage? The world had surely changed.
We waited. Hostages were released. Later, when an ill hostage came home, there were yellow ribbons everywhere, relief, and belief it might finally end. It did, but it tainted Jimmy Carter's presidency, left us waiting in long gas lines, and our faith in normal had waned. Almost forty years later, Iran is testing ballistic missiles and our two countries are word sparring again.
I am soaking in these memories, these hardships, nursing certain resentments, when Tony hands me the clock.
I am reminded we are just humans who love beauty, who need to create, who need to support our families. Iran had come to me in peace and beauty.