Bob Schwartz

Tag: UNESCO

Trump threatens Iranian cultural sites: A breach of civilized laws and conventions. An appeal to his nationalist Christian supporters.

Naghsh-e Jahan Square, Isfahan, Iran. Constructed between 1598 and 1629. UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979.

Ordering or carrying out the destruction of cultural sites in Iran or anywhere else as a part of hostilities is unequivocally illegal under American and international law, reprehensible and worthy of condemnation, and unworthy of civilized nations.

This didn’t stop Trump from threatening such destruction multiple times in the past few days. This has led top civilian and military leaders in the administration, when asked about it, either to deny that Trump said it or to say that we would of course follow the law, though they never explicitly say the words “no cultural sites.”

This has been labeled just some more transgressive and unconventional bluster from Trump, spouting things he doesn’t understand and doesn’t really mean.

There is something else going on.

We begin with Iran, home of one of the oldest and culturally richest civilizations. It has 24 of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, with more under consideration (see picture above).

Persia was a Zoroastrian empire before being conquered by the Caliphate in 651 CE, when it became an increasingly Islamic nation, now 99% Muslim. Note that at no time has it been a Christian nation, which makes all of its cultural progress and heritage theologically “suspect” or “evil” according to some people.

There is little in that previous paragraph that Trump knows or understands. What he does know is that a portion of his most loyal supporters respond enthusiastically to anything that threatens people and their culture who are not American, not white, and not Christian (for some of those supporters, but only some, Jews get a pass because they are part of the pathway to a Second Coming).

That is why Trump threatens Iran’s cultural sites. It is possible, given his belief that he is the Supreme and Irrefusable Leader, that he thinks the military would carry out such an order. They won’t. Mostly, though, carried out or not, he thinks it shows that he is on the side of those nationalist Christian supporters. He is.

World Book Day

Today, April 23, is designated World Book and Copyright Day by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization)—a day to promote reading, publishing and copyright. (In the UK, World Book Day is recognized on the first Thursday in March, but strangely World Book Night is tonight.)

UNESCO says:

World Book and Copyright Day is an opportunity to highlight the power of books to promote our vision of knowledge societies that are inclusive, pluralistic, equitable, open and participatory for all citizens.

The UN says:

It is on this date in 1616 that Cervantes, Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega all died. It is also the date of birth or death of other prominent authors, such as Maurice Druon, Haldor K.Laxness, Vladimir Nabokov, Josep Pla and Manuel Mejía Vallejo.

It was a natural choice for UNESCO’s General Conference, held in Paris in 1995, to pay a world-wide tribute to books and authors on this date, encouraging everyone, and in particular young people, to discover the pleasure of reading and gain a renewed respect for the irreplaceable contributions of those, who have furthered the social and cultural progress of humanity. With this in mind, UNESCO created the World Book and Copyright Day.

So today, read a book, write a book, publish and copyright a book. If you’ve already done any or all of those, start doing it again. Appreciate those who have done any of those things. And give a book to someone or read a book to someone, particularly to children.

Note: I know Cervantes, Shakespeare and Nabokov, but I admit that Garcilaso de la Vega, Maurice Druon, Haldor K. Laxness, Josep Pla and Manuel Mejía Vallejo are new to me. Among the things I learned is that Laxness received the 1955 Nobel Prize for Literature, and that George R.R. Martin (author of Game of Thrones) said “I think Druon is France’s best historical novelist since Alexandre Dumas, père.”

All of which serves as one more reminder of what great authors and books remain to be read, and as a reminder that World Book Day is a good time to get started.