The video begins with the distinct chanting of Muslim verses, and then the words come in. Rapper Cilvaringz says with chilling confidence, “Welcome to
the streets of Arabia/ Where people live, like you live/ Where people cry, like you cry/ Where people die, unlike you die.” The song’s name is “Death to America.” When the rap portion begins, Cilvaringz claims that the United States celebrates 9/11; he references colonization, slavery, and a Jew-hating country. He wants us to “ask yourself who is occupying who” and claims that the attacks are not “terrorism,” but people “fighting, for their freedom.” There are many references to current events all over the world, but the message is clear by the end: “Death to America, is what I hear everyday.”
These lyrics may seem out of the ordinary, or just a radical rapper trying to do something avant garde, but the sentiment is actually very real. There is tangible truth to what he is proposing. In Iran, the annual “Grand Day of Death to America” approaches. As a result, Iran unveiled two new anti-U.S. slogans. This day is in response to the U.S. Embassy takeover in Tehran in 1979. Over three decades later and the hatred has not subsided. As conversation about nuclear power continues, Iran’s opposition to the United States also continues. The chant has persisted throughout the estranged relationship and has even made its way into Friday prayers. The country is trying to appear more moderate, but the slogan has ingrained itself into the consciousness of the society. Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami continues to speak with the United States, but says that the chants will persist.
What does the slogan really mean? Does Iran want to do away with the United States completely? As in the song by Cilvaringz, one issue brought up is imperialism. The “Death to America” sentiment in Iran represents resistance to this imperialism as well as strength in its unity. The United States has, for much of its history, been known as an imperialist and world super power. The nation was founded on occupation. The Native Americans were pushed out of their home soil, and not long after, slavery exploded. The United States released themselves from the powerful grips of the British only to gain independence and commit the same to others. For over thirty years Iran has been subject to this, but they are not the only country. In 2003, the United States had military bases in over 36 countries across the world. So, who, we must ask, is occupying who?
In so many places the United States is a place of wonder and opportunity. One can accomplish his or her life’s goals there and provide a better future for their family. Or so the sayings go. While the “American Dream” still prospers as an untouchable concept for most (even for those within the United States), ideas of death to the country remain in the background. Is this concept unique to Iran? I think not. But, their tradition of protesting the United States on this day sends a message to everyone, including the U.S. Is it a fight against the country or the inequality inherent in religious, political, and economic difference? Should we fight the country or the systems that allow these types of activities to prosper? Maybe the only way to get the message across now is to call for a death to America and paint demonized images of American freedom across our flag.