Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Page From My Life by Payman Akhlaghi

It might sound strange, but it now seems that for the past few months, I've been defending the Constitution of the United States, and my dignity, by as little as insisting on my right to drink or eat, and read a book, in a coffee shop or a restaurant, without being insulted, disturbed or humiliated. Such abuse is not new to me. Combined with my sensitivities, they've largely handicapped my life and education for years, with some cases taking place on my very beloved campus, while I'd been doing nothing but a simple walk, heads down. However, the degree or nature of such abuse as I've experienced since about November 2011 has had few precedents. I've become consistently subjected to verbal harassment and manipulations of all sorts, in a straightforward or oblique but highly suggestive language, at times loudly directed at me, by suspicious individuals. These began to happen almost every single time I was out in the evening, as I sat at a place to eat or drink, and read a book. All these has happened while I'd been most polite to others, and mindful of their privacy in public. (Those who know me, would attest to that.)

I did not acquiesce to such thuggish behavior, as isolated or connected as they might have been, and whatever their intent, which I've left to speculation. Instead, I continued to stay, sometimes covered my ears, at all times tried to concentrate on my reading or writing, all the time staying as civil as I could. Only two or three times, when the deliberate intent of the perpetrator became clear, I voiced my concern against such "bullying by quasi-fascist techniques.", once by complaining to the waitress, who immediately sympathized with me, helped me change seats, and apparently asked the man to bring his voice down. I continued to stay, even though my heartbeat was at the ceiling and I'd been made sick to my stomach.

On February 17th, 2012, after months of perpetuated abuse, I finally decided to complain in person to the police department. The officer kindly listened and asked me to ignore such people (I've long tried), talk to them (I consider these too much beneath me), or call the police (which I very well might.)

Now I'm asking myself, was it worth it to for me to stay and suffer, or would it have been better for me to leave? I'm afraid that my answer is still, Yes. To be sure, I'm not the only person to have been put through such ordeals in any society, even in a very civil society in which I'm fortunate to live. Also, it's been very hard to distinguish such incidents from ordinary conversations, loud or soft, which go around us all the time, and which I do ignore like anyone else does. But after careful consideration, I concluded that everything about these particular cases indicated that they had been meant to bully me, a non-suspecting person, trying to have a moment to himself in a coffee shop, or have dinner by himself. If so, what would happen if everyone caved in to such bullying? -- A Page From My Life, © 2012, Payman Akhlaghi."

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