Marj asked me if I’d like to guest post. I said, “Sure!”
…and was promptly overwhelmed with Blank Page Syndrome — so much to explain about this place, our transition, our move, my new job — picking a logical starting point is like being told to empty the water out of a swimming pool…and being handed a thimble to do the bailing.
I guess the biggest thing to hit me, or at least the thought that keeps recurring, is this:
In three weeks, I’ve learned that everything I thought I knew about the Middle East was either oversimplified, crudely generalized, or flat-out wrong.
And I know even less now than when I arrived. But at least I can trust the truth of what little I do know, now, as firsthand info.
There’s so much misinformation, propaganda, and confusion surrounding the middle east and its peoples (the plural is deliberate) that I marvel at the arrogance of politicians who have the temerity to toss terms like “the middle east region” around in the press.
Likewise “the Islamic culture.”
This place is more than a “region.” And the people who live here are so complicated and diverse that a label like “the Islamic culture” Is about as accurate as the label “Christian.”
A Baptist church in Alabama and a Lutheran church in Minnesota are both Christian, but I wouldn’t expect their respective congregations to agree on much.
The same applies in Jordan. And Syria, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Dubai, Kuwait, and so on. Each of these places is a separate country with a distinct, clear, and proud cultural and political heritage.
You can’t lump them together. That’s like trying to generalize Canada, the US, and Mexico as a singular region. Geographically? Sure. But after a commonality of location, the differences become significant and important. We’re talking about three VERY different countries.
Well, okay, two. With apologies to my Canadian friends, Canada is essentially America Lite.
I’m in danger of veering off on a rant here, so I’ll see if I can steer back out of this opinion skid.
There’s a deep dignity and a kindness to the Jordanian people I’ve met so far. I don’t know if this is a regional thing, or a Jordanian thing, or an arab thing. But I do know that more people — strangers — have stopped to smile, laugh, and admire Abby in the short time we’ve been here than have stopped in the entire year prior in Pasadena.
I never expected this.
Marj might tell you I’m exaggerating this “Abby’s admirerers” figure, but my numbers are accurate. This is a country and culture that genuinely loves children, and I think that speaks volumes about the core beliefs of the Jordanian people. Take from this what you like. But when a grim-faced border guard armed with suspicious eyes and an assault rifle cracks a smile and bends down to pinch my daughter’s cheeks, I see hope in his actions.
We do ourselves and the world injustice, I believe, when we think in terms as general as “those people,” or “Muslims,” or “the terrorists.”
None of this negates the fact that there are bad people claiming to belong to the Islamic religion who want to bring great pain and suffering to the US and the western world at large. There are such people, and they do want to harm the west. I fear them, and their tactics make me angry.
But, like the Bloods and the Crips, the Fruit Town Brims and the Avenues gangs in LA, these angry, violent people aren’t the majority.
Or maybe I’m wrong again. Maybe I’m seeing this world though one visit to Israel and three weeks with the cultural elite — the highly-educated, the artists and some expatriates from other parts of the world.
Either way, there’s a gap between what I thought I knew back home, and what I’m beginning to learn here. The contradiction is a sharp one.
More on this when I can deliver a more coherent point-of-view. Good night, friends and family. I’m off to bed.