We can be confusing and overwhelming and baffling. We are not to others always what we think we are. And because we are so globally linked, we are lucky to often have the chance for a perceptive guest to hold up the mirror to us. Here’s an insightful look from a young Moroccan journalist who recently spent time with us here at the Community Media Workshop.
A Moroccan in Chicago
After getting out of Chicago’s O’ Hare Airport, another world unfolded in front of my eyes. Coming from a country like Morocco, and growing up in one of the poor areas in Kelaat Sraghna, a region that is mostly rural and from which a lot of young men have embarked into the sea trying to illegally enter Spanish or Italian soil in search of a better future in ‘’The European Eldorado’’, I couldn’t help frequently indulge in a comparison process between where I come from and where I landed.
Prior to my coming to Chicago on October 10th (2012) as a member of a Moroccan delegation of seven young people taking part in Legislative Fellows Program, I had never gone beyond Morocco’s borders. Touring and discovering the world has always caught my imagination, and among all the countries on the world’s map, the one I mostly dreamt about was the US.
This has to do with many reasons, among which is the fact the US has had a huge influence, good and bad, on today’s societies and individuals and a major impact on the economic and political course of history for decades and even centuries.
You can’t be indifferent vis-à-vis America, especially when you come from a region like the Arab world. And beyond the two options that Americans give to others in regard to their country, love it or leave it, you’d mostly go for a third way. There are plenty of things I admired and others I resented about America. Being able for the first time to see things with my own eyes and be closer to what’s going on instead of learning about them from so far away, did actually strengthen how I both ways feel about this country.
Without getting much into details about this point, I’d sum it up by saying that I have always admired America as a hard working nation that immensely contributed to the development of modern civilization and led the way in many fields of knowledge and artistic creation.
What I have always resented, and something which I guess a lot of people around the world share, is America’s involvement in many regions throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, which, in my opinion, caused a lot of damage and I’m not sure if it did any good whatsoever.
Unfortunately, I believe this involvement finds its roots in a deeply entrenched ideology in the minds of many politicians and citizens, who believe that America is invested with a lofty mission to act as the world’s policeman and that whenever it intervenes somewhere, no matter how far beyond its borders, it’s always for a just cause. Worse than that, when anyone admits that a certain intervention wasn’t for the just cause, like in Iraq for instance, they would still give you the most simplistic arguments to defend it. Such arguments would be: “It was a mistake”, or “the President had inaccurate information” or more boldly “but, wasn’t it a good thing to get rid of a dictator like Saddam Hussein’’.
As a Muslim and as an Arab, I couldn’t of course accept such arguments. Back home it would make me angry to listen to such things. Being exposed to them again in an American context, makes me realize that people who hold such ideas are not necessarily bad or see the world as inferior, and that they have developed them maybe throughout a long period of time, through sources they take for credible (presidential administrations, politicians and media…etc).
The best way maybe to bridge the gap is to freely talk about it and listen to what each has to say. You don’t necessarily have to agree or change one another’s opinion, but you’d probably understand each other’s way of thinking and attitude.
That tension that I perceive as one the characteristics that has long governed the relationship between America and the Muslim world fades away most of the time when I’m on the streets of Chicago asking for directions and finding people enormously helpful; or on a visit to an organization or meeting with individuals who would greet you warmly as soon as they know you are from another country.
Talking with people and learning about one another’s backgrounds and experiences draws you closer and bridges those gaps that might have been caused by differences in faith or race or language or geography.
Saad Eddine Lamzouwaq