As tension builds between Iran, Israel and the United States, the Iranian-American community in Los Angeles seems split on whether or not to take action. My generation of "20 somethings" is struggling to unite and find an effective voice in this conversation.
After the Islamic Revolution of 1979, when Iran's Monarchy was overthrown by a Muslim dictatorship, many of my parents' generation came to the States searching for democracy, freedom and success. Now, 33 years into the revolution, Iranians are confronting a possibility of another conflict.
Yet as the nation of my birth stands at the brink of war, so much of our community seems ignorant. The biggest news out of our diaspora now? A reality show on Bravo called "Shahs of Sunset," a sort of Persian Jersey Shore, where a small group of shallow young Iranians flaunt their cars, hand-bags and dramas around Beverly Hills. I'm baffled that at a critical time, so many of my people are focused on such mindlessness.
Turns out I'm not alone. On a recent morning I invited a musician friend, Siavash Davarnia over for a breakfast of sour cherry jam and tea.
"There's going to be a war with Iran and other countries," he says, "and it's really sad that we don't have the unity to show that, 'hey we have all these good people,' and unfortunately we have these kids running around in their nice cars getting the stage."
Siavash is 26. He says this younger generation inherited this "why bother" attitude was from that first wave of Iranian immigrants who came here after the revolution.
"[The] older generation, you know they say, 'oh we just want to make our money and don't get involved in politics,'" he says, "because they failed once, and they failed big time and they are afraid of doing it again."
A few days later, my mother, Fereshteh Kangarlou, and I are sitting in my old bedroom in Orange County, going through snap shots of my parents' first years in the U.S. She says many Iranians who came here after the revolution, were disillusioned by the Islamic regime and didn't like the changes taking place in Iran.
"That's why they were more focused on their own lives," she says. "They just didn't have the unity and hope to believe they can bring any change in their new country."
So, what does it take for my generation to stand up and raise its voice when there is so much at stake? My friend Amir Bagherpour is a political analyst. He's 30, and he just signed a book deal on foreign policy. He's organizing several nationwide panels on U.S.-Iran and Mid-East policies, including a recent one at Claremont Graduate University.
"What's at stake for the Iranian American community, is not my success, or a lawyers success or any individuals success, "Amir says. What's at stake is the collective success of the community and really the future of Iran in our image and the Iranian-American community and the United States."
Amir has learned that if Iranian-Americans don't write their own narratives, somebody else will tell their story for them; and that may be a story they don't like.
While Amir talks policy, Siavash focuses on his music. In a small recording studio in Orange County, he improvises with his friend Noalto, a Japanese-American trumpet player. Siavash says his goal is to create a fusion with other cultures.
"To actually engage them with what's going on in our culture," he says, "and how as Americans they can help me understand my culture better and present it better."
While the embarrassment of mediocrity seems to be the new recipe for fame, hope seems to rest in people like my friends Siavash and Amir, who are part of a generation that aspires to frame new narratives.