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In 1980, a few months into the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, I saw this graffiti scrawled on a bus shelter in rural France: "Visit the U.S.S.R. before the U.S.S.R. visits you."

One way or another, some culture we fear or don't understand always comes to visit. This usually doesn't take the form of a military airlift; it's usually just an influx of students, businessmen and refugees.

As these people enter our lives, we usually discover that, no, they're not just like us. There's a different dynamic between the men, women and children; their religions are much more complex than our generalizations allow; they expect to interact with us in ways we find odd.

We may consider aspects of these people's cultures to be flawed by our standards, and sometimes unjust. My wife, for example, taught several Iranian students over the years at Pima College and the UA, and she still recalls one desperate high-achiever who had to maintain incredibly high academic standards if he weren't to be shipped home as cannon fodder in the Iran-Iraq war.

But we also learn that much good may come from the people of these once-despised cultures, especially when we're dealing with individuals rather than posturing governments.

Dave Devine's "Persian Mosaic" in this week's issue isn't about some exotic menace thousands of miles away; it's about people in our midst. Iran has come to visit Tucson, and stayed.

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