It makes me uncomfortable that there are parallels between descriptions of Iranian totalitarianism and violence in Reading Lolita In Tehran and the current state of intolerance and official harassment in the United States these days.

In some places, you can be arrested by federal agents for wearing an anti-Bush T-shirt, as a couple recently learned.

Jeff Rank, 29, said he and his wife wore the T-shirts because, "When you see the president speak on TV he is usually shown surrounded by fervent supporters only. While we wanted to hear him out and while we wanted to see him in person, we did not want to be added to the tally of Bush supporters that day."

Their crime? The AP writes:

Nicole Rank's shirt had the words "Love America, Hate Bush" on the back and Jeff Rank's said "Regime change starts at home."

The couple has filed a lawsuit looking "to declare unconstitutional any policy that led to their arrest," AP reports. As evidence that none of this exists in a vacuum, the couple's action comes after an ACLU lawsuit in September that sought to prevent the Secret Service from segregating protesters at Bush's public appearances.

The Decatur (Tenn.) Daily reported what happened to a woman who refused her boss's demand that she remove a John Kerry bumper sticker from her car:

[Lynne] Gobbell of Moulton didn't pay a cent for the sticker that she proudly displays on the rear windshield of her Chevrolet Lumina, but said it cost her job at a local factory after it angered her boss, Phil Gaddis.

This story ends happily, for now, as the Kerry campaign hired her. AP reports:

Gobbell said her former employer had told her she could either work for him or Kerry. She said Kerry told her, "Let him know that as of today, you're working for John Kerry." ...

A liberal Web site, AMERICAblog.org, began raising money for Gobbell on Monday night after learning of her dismissal. John Aravosis, who runs the site, said he collected $1,800 over a 24-hour period.

The increase of intolerance at the prompting of extreme right-wing reactionary zealots, in the U.S. as in revolutionary Iran, brings with it religious overtones and the veneer of infallibility.

Azar Nafisi, author and former professor of literature at University of Tehran, writes about the onset of the Iran-Iraq war:

The polarization created by the regime confused every aspect of life. Not only were the forces of God fighting an emissary of Satan, Iraq's Saddam Hussein, but they were also fighting agents of Satan inside the country. At all times, from the very beginning of the revolution and all through the war and after, the Islamic regime never forgot its holy battle against its internal enemies. All forms of criticism were now considered Iraqi-inspired and dangerous to national security. Those groups and individuals without a sense of loyalty to the regime's brand of Islam were excluded from the war effort. They could be killed or sent to the front, but they could not voice their social or political preferences. There were only two forces in the world, the army of God and that of Satan.

Of course, there are no roving bands of men with guns to enforce allegiance to the administration — yet — but the tendencies are certainly there.

Remember, after all, it was Bush who "joked" (to use BusinessWeek's term): "A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there's no question about it."


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