I hate rhetorical questions. I tell students not to use them in writing because they can always be answered in the negative. In the case of today’s post, I’m making an exception.
Because the idea that countries in the Middle East would deport or restrict Americans from crossing their borders is rhetorical. No rational person holds American citizens responsible for the actions of their government. I say no rational person because there is the quite dramatic exception of those who would make symbolic targets of citizens of western nations for their own purposes.
For decades, the United States and Americans have enjoyed impunity when it comes the division between the State and the individual. When I studied abroad in China as an undergraduate, Chinese students wanted to know what my life was like. Not about American attitudes towards communism.
During my first, and as of yet only visit to Yemen, a female student, covered from head to toe in black, pulled me aside to ask “what Oprah meant when she says God is in the details.”
Speaking of Oprah, after one of my first visits into a Qatari home, the Arabian emirate where I have lived for the last 10 years, my friend’s brother told his cousins that Oprah (me) had visited them.
Americans travel the world without having to answer for the Vietnam war. Thousands of us live in the Middle East without having to apologize for the decisions of the Bush presidency or the catastrophic Iraq war.
In fact, 6.3 millions of Americans live outside of America. If you, like me, live outside of our home country, you are probably greeted with exclamations of “I love Britney Spears!” or “Michael Jordan is the best athlete of all time.” Over and over and over again when I got into taxi cabs during my six week Arabic course in Syria drivers said to me: “America good” or “I love America.”
In exchange for the courteous welcome we receive overseas, how about the Americans living inside America let Donald Trump know that the idea that all Muslims must answer for the actions of the radical few is not only preposterous, but is also antithetical to notions of democracy, and the religious freedom on which these United States were founded, it is plain unfair.
Trump’s recent suggestions that Muslims inside the United States be issued identification cards, to ban people of Muslim faith until “we fully understand the dangerous threat” have triggered widespread derision and alarm.
I’m thankful that we are no longer laughing. I hope the people who were saying “I like him because he says what we’re all thinking,” have changed their minds.