“Hi, it’s Jane.”
This is what a mother said to me when I ended up sitting on a plane next to her because her sons wanted to sit next to each other. I opened my laptop as I was waiting for the plane to take off. Then the mother asked me: “So, where are you from?” I replied with saying that I came from Saudi Arabia, and I smiled back asking her the same question. She was from a city in the U.S.
After a pause that lasted for a couple of minutes, she asked me about how I liked it here, and so on. Naturally, I answered her that I liked it here, and so on. Like others that I had a similar conversation with, she commented that “She can’t imagine herself going to Saudi Arabia to study or anywhere in that region, to be honest.” I smiled, and I tried my best for the comment not to get under my skin, even though I knew that she doesn’t mean it in an offensive way. She then asked me about how I like the freedom here, how does it feel for me to not be forced to cover every part of me, and how is it to live in a place where everything and everyone is accepted no matter where they come from because everyone is treated with kindness.
Deep inside, I couldn’t help it but to laugh out loud. I don’t mean it an offensive way to the country I’m living in nor the people in it at all, but because of how hard she was trying to convince me of how everything is perfect here, and how compared to other countries, this place is superior. She told me that this is a place where all cultures are accepted and all nationalities are welcomed because when you become American you choose to live in a culture of inclusiveness. I couldn’t help it but think how this culture of inclusiveness is simultaneously one of erasing cultures.
Be it the latest incident of Trump becoming President, be it the fact that I lived here for a year and a half, be it the suffocating concept of Freedom of Speech that everyone is talking but I keep seeing only a certain kind of speech that is free, be it all the reasons stated above, but I couldn’t help it to not ponder at her claim that “The Region that I come from is One that doesn’t accept other cultures.”
Sure, some of the people from my own country would agree with her. Some would even criticize the country on far harsher standards. I don’t ignore the fact that it might not be the most stable region in the world. It might not be America, with all its greatness and power, but it is home.
Home where we have our own distinct culture that has a lot of flaws. Home where sometimes culture, religion, and politics are all intertwined to the point that there is no distinguish between them. But the culture she claims as kindness, treating other people kindly, and accepting people has nothing to do with the idea of actual culture. These are universal rights that every person should be treated based on, and whether a region is unstable or perfect has nothing to do with how people treat each other because kindness is a concept that everyone should follow regardless of what religion, belief, or political party they follow.