What is beef? What is racism? What is Minnesota Burning? For me to answer those questions I’ll have to go back to childhood.
My name is بهزاد spelled phonetically into English it becomes Behzad. The people of Mound, MN were unwilling to pronounce my name the way my parents pronounced it. Instead they would say Bay-zod and this is how I pronounce it today. When I speak to someone from Iran or the Middle East at large, I have to make a conscious effort to pronounce my name correctly when introducing myself.
Part of the flame that makes up Minnesota Burning had its start in what I’ll call the mispronunciation event. The inflexibility of a community to not correctly pronounce one name is very telling of their hospitality. I came from a nation that was subjugated by the United States for a great part of the 20th century and when the chickens came home to roost there was only shock, bewilderment and guardedness. I attribute this to ignorance, therefor I can’t be angry with the people. I know our media acts as an educator, but the fact is we have false teachers. Minnesota Burning hopes to educate the public on what beef and racism truly are.
Racism is when I was continually mocked by my classmates, their parents, and our educators for my nation of origin, my name, and my appearance. Racism is when I joined the US Navy and the Air National Guard and in both institutions I was “jokingly” linked to terrorism and being a national threat. Racism is when my former wife and friends were told that I was a jihadist by the FBI with no evidence beyond my country of origin and my living and working in Saudi Arabia at the time.
Beef is my trying to rebuild my life over and over again after all of these events. Beef is continually being seen as an outsider even though I grew up in this country and made myself available to make the ultimate sacrifice for her in two branches of the military. Beef is being screened, scrutinized and questioned time and time again.
Minnesota Burning is angry, but not vindictive. It has taken almost 40 years to find out how to control the rage which burns inside me. I’ve come to understand that the fire inside me is not something to fear; but something to understand and explore. Minnesota Burning invites everyone to explore my fire. It won’t burn or hurt you. My fire is like one at a campsite surrounded by a circle of stones and benches. It is a place for story-telling and comradery for all who wish to enter.
You might ask why I wear this garb. My guise is intentionally selected to strike fear. Those who are brave enough to enter their fear are also open-minded enough to hear my message and learn a true lesson.