Friday, March 25, 2011

Identity Theft

A day or so ago, some people on Facebook put an article up about the revolutions in the Middle East. Definitely read it. I was fascinated by it, and I think the guy had some really great points and I agree with most of it...but then again, something bothered me about it. It kind of relates back to an earlier post about westerners just not "getting it" about the Middle East, but this is a little more specific. Many people view the Arab World as one big unit...but each country, even in North Africa, is so different from the others that to blanket the entire Arabian peninsula as basically (though I know he never said it) "fake countries" is just kind of out there. Now, there's no way I can say that Mr. Friedman is wrong...dude has basically spent his life in the Middle East studying and writing about it. That's not really what I wanted to write about. No, I wanted to write about the way that this makes me feel.

Living here is a constant challenge. It's a challenge to my faith, it's a challenge to my customs, and it's a challenge to the patriotic feelings I have for my country. I had to explain why the idea that 9/11 was an inside job was ludicrous to my 10th graders. I am spoken to about Christianity in a tone that seems to say, "that's so cute that you believe that...". I have started speeding.

And yet, I find myself defending this place to people back home. I get a twinge of irritation when I see things people write about the Kingdom. I write facebook comments and then decide not to send them because I know it would cause a thing. When I get home I know that I'm going to have some interesting conversations with people who think they know a lot about this place, but don't actually know a damn thing.

This has led me to a very strange conclusion: like Spock, I am a child of two worlds now. I have the burden of knowledge and experience that will never let me hear a news story about the USA without dreading what it will be. I won't be able to see an event like the "trial" of Islam in Florida without thinking immediately of my students and getting sad that after all I do to try and show them what a great thing America is, I get this. I will never be able to read the reports about protests in the Kingdom without seeing that no one really sees what's going on. When I get home, I know I'm going to be culture shocked. I'm going to shake hands with everyone a million times, drive too fast and honk unnecessarily, and just generally feel uncomfortable. This is going to be very strange.

So I have been completely changed by this experience and it's not even halfway over. I'm still Tyler, there's no doubt about that. I love puns, oreos, and a good, cold, dark beer (can you tell I'm excited for Berlin?). But my perspective has shifted and my understanding of who I am in relation to the rest of the world is different now and will always be.

Vicariously yours,


  1. I think you don't give Friedman enough credit. He specifically called out the nations that were historically countries, e.g. Egypt, and the ones that were drawn by lines on a map, e.g. Israel, Saudi, etc. I disagreed a bit with him on Kuwait, but only because I think they captured the tribe's territory pretty well. This dynamic is incredibly important. Remember, it's family, tribe, sect, Islam, and then everybody else.

    Apply that to Libya, and our current endeavor is really stupid.

  2. Re: your last statement: couldn't that be part of the reason for this whole adventure? You & Amber wanted to experience another country/part of the world not just as tourists, but as a resident. You can't do that and not come away unchanged. Just don't be too hard on us slubs who stay in one spot forever, when you get here. Love you!!