At the end of government rallies in Iran ‘Death To America’ is drearily chanted. For the vast majority of Iranians the slogan is embarrassing. They resent being forced to chant it. Iranians admire the US, indeed Iranians are the most pro-US people in the Middle East.
It seems unease over the slogan has even reached the Supreme Leader’s office. On the occasion of the 36th anniversary of the 1979 US Embassy hostage crisis, Ayatollah Khamenei was trying to explain why being anti-American was important. But then he gave a rare explanation about Iran’s ritualistic death chants. Iran’s 76 year old leader said:
“It goes without saying that the slogan does not mean death to the American nation; this slogan means death to the US’s policies: death to arrogance.”
It does not ‘go without saying’ that the slogan is about policy. To wish ‘death’ for another country is hugely offensive and Iranians understand this. So there is embarrassment.
And more: the official insistence on chanting this slogan serves to underline how a small minority of the older generation are clinging to a worn and clichéd script. Enjoying the internet and their smart phones (both invented in the USA) this xenophobic script has no relevance for the vast majority of young Iranians.
On the other hand, a faith that wants life for all and death for no nation, a faith that is seen as the foundation for freedom, that faith holds much attraction.