Spurning Gifts from Iranian Captors

Mark Bowden wrote an article about the Iran hostages in December 1979, including this dispatch about one prisoner’s defiant gesture.

The hostages and guards were having a Christmas party, allowing Rev. William Sloane Coffin and others to come into the embassy and cheer up the hostages. But Michael Metrinko would have none of it, he wanted no part in a propaganda show. “When his guards brought him a gift of a plate of turkey and stuffing, cookies, and marshmallows, the food was tempting. He was hungry but galled by how self-congratulatory his captors seemed. He accepted the plate and stared at it. Then he said he needed to use the toilet, and emerged carrying the gift plate before him. He marched down the hall into the bathroom and dumped its contents into the toilet bowl. He made sure the guards saw him do it.

They were furious with him. He had insulted their hospitality and kind intentions. He was crazy! When they shoved him back into his room and slammed the door shut, Metrinko felt a momentary pang at having lost the meal. What a glorious treat he had denied himself for. But his remorse was nothing next to the pleasure he took in delivering the insult. It had hit home and wounded them, and that was something that gave a more lasting pleasure than the food ever could have.”