Yesterday at a meeting with Egyptian youth in Cairo, the first comment someone made to me after introductions was, I’m sorry for what happened in Boston.
It was a tragedy.
But, what about my apology for America’s role in instigating tragedies? Like the continued military aid to Egypt that facilitates the regime’s violence against its citizens? And our shipments of tear gas to use against protestors?
As Americans, rarely, if ever, do we apologize to someone we meet from Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or (insert country here) for the bombings, drone attacks, covert operations, or military and/or political aid to unsavory regimes that our government – the government that we elected – is responsible for. Maybe because it would get tiresome to spend so much time apologizing.
Most people who have traveled to these countries – many labeled as anti-western – can attest to the warm hospitality of the majority in spite of the actions of our government. This is not to say that there isn’t suspicion or obnoxiousness, but it’s often overwhelmed by kindness.
However, our reception of people who come to America from other countries is far less welcoming. There are handfuls of people who extend similar considerations, but our instinct is to discriminate, marginalize, and label, whether it’s terrorist, illegal immigrant, or something else.
Yesterday, it was a scared, injured, Saudi kid in Boston who was at the wrong place at the wrong time and looked the wrong way.
Why are we so afraid to see the “other” as deserving of our sympathy, respect, and remorse?
The New Yorker’s article on the Saudi student: The Saudi Marathon Man