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Oud awakening

  • Jon Kelly
  • 20 Sep 08, 05:10 AM GMT

On 4 November, Rahim Al-Haj will be a first-time voter. His eyes were wide with boyish enthusiasm as he told me how excited he was at the prospect of exercising his democratic right. But Rahim was no callow 18-year-old straight out of high school.

Imprisoned and tortured in his native Iraq for his opposition to Saddam Hussein's regime, Rahim, 40, became an American citizen at a ceremony on 16 August, having arrived here as a refugee eight years ago.

"I cried that day," he told me. "And the very first thing I did afterwards was fill in a voter registration form.

"My polling card arrived this morning. I picked it up and did this," he said as he mimed kissing it.

"After 40 years, I can't wait to vote freely at last."

Rahim Al-Haj

But Rahim didn't want to be thought of as a dissident or a political activist. He's an exceptionally skilled musician, one of the world's most accomplished players of the oud - a lute-like stringed instrument whose origins date back over 5,000 years.

I asked him to play for me. He obliged with a quick-paced, melancholy composition. His affinity with the instrument and the gentle, mournful sound it produced was striking.

"It's much more intimate than a guitar," he explained as he strummed. "You have to hug it like you'd hug your wife or girlfriend."

As a small boy, his bond with his oud was so strong that he used to sleep with it in its carry case. His love of music won him a string of awards and a place at the Institute of Music in his native Baghdad.

But it was Rahim's passion for composing and performing that forced him into exile. He used his talent and popularity to speak out against the regime by writing songs which protested against the Iran-Iraq war.

The authorities didn't hesitate. His recordings were banned and he was thrown into prison at the mercy of Saddam's torturers.

"But worst degradation was that they took my oud away," he recalled. "I'd practice playing on my wrist. It was as though I could hear the music."

After he was released from prison during the first Gulf War, Rahim fled the country using false papers. But because musicians had to declare their instruments before leaving Iraq, he had to leave the oud behind.

He went to Jordan before settling in Syria, where he met his wife and stayed for eight years. But when Iraq and Syria restored diplomatic relations in 1998, he had to leave again - this time for the USA.

The United Nations refugee agency sent him to Albuquerque, New Mexico, because they thought the desert landscape would remind him of home.

At first it seemed strange to him. It wasn't the bustling New York-style metropolis he had expected. But as he learned English and made friends, it became his favourite place in the world.

Rahim's career flourished. He played with symphony orchestras in New York and teaches music at the University of New Mexico. In 2008 he was nominated for a Grammy. And like any American, he exercised his constitutional right to complain about the state of the nation.

"America is a wonderful place - the country is gorgeous and the people are so open and welcoming," he said.

"But Americans are very isolated. The only people around them are the Mexicans, who they treat badly, and the Canadians, who are just like them.

"If I can do anything while I'm here, I'd like to help them understand other parts of the world."

I asked him how he was planning to use his first-ever free vote. The answer came back on the beat: Obama. The occupation of his homeland had been a disaster, he said.

"I had mixed feeling when Saddam was overthrown because he was such a terrible man," Rahim said. "But I also saw the devastation and the suffering that my people experienced as a result of the invasion.

"When there's a snake in your house, you don't destroy the house to get rid of it. But there have been four million people displaced in Iraq, one million dead, Shia turned against Sunni.

"It isn't just about Iraq. We need change at home too. Ask anyone about how the economy's affecting them. The Americans have suffered under Bush, too."

Before I left, we embraced. He made me promise never to take my right to vote for granted again.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I love my country too much - but I have to admit their might be some truth to the "isolated" statement by our new fellow citizen. Most of us need to educate ourselves and understand other parts of the world. People I know who traveled outside the US are never the same once returned. They change for the better. They are more tolerant and accepting of other cultures and races. Most often than not, they are ashamed for their prior ignorance of the outside world. I had the opportunity to visit Europe and Africa and I am also enlightened by the experience. If you think we are only hated by some individual terrorists and some muslim countries, I have news for you folks - travel to any European country and you will hear the same hatred. The perception by some is we are very ignorat people who think the world revolve around us.

  • Comment number 2.

    I (as a British Citizen living outside the UK, in Europe) since 1970, will never forget the complaints I heard from GIs stationed in Germany while I was there in the 60s (as a salesman!)

    Typically, "Man, I'm just counting the days till I can le

  • Comment number 3.

    Rahim is an incredible, right on, outrageous kind of guy. That's all there is to it.

    He is able to express some very potent notions through the use of the oud... an instrument that can really be even more personal sounding than a guitar. I've always loved the music of the oud.
    It can create an other worldly ambience with it's interlocking rhythms and resonant tone.

    It's an honor to have him in the country. He can only be a positive influence in our society. Especially considering how many MORONS we have in our beautiful country.

    Do you have an album? Let's hear that oud, Rahim!

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 5.

    Rahim, welcome to the club.

  • Comment number 6.

    Rahim is exactly right about how isolated many Americans are. Part of it may be due to the sheer size of our nation, but it mostly has to do with an individuals ignorance and lack of exposure. As an American living abroad, I am always pleased to meet other Americans, especially youth, who are opening their eyes and seeing the world. I hope that the younger generation will be more globally conscious than their older counterparts. I believe it will make them more tolerant and open-minded.

    An important thing Rahim mentions is to never take your ability to vote freely and without harassment for granted. There are few nations in the world where elections are as free as they are in the United States. Unfortunately, many Americans again do not realize this.

    I am very happy to welcome Rahim as a citizen of the United States and hope he will continue to open people's eyes and minds. Thank you Rahim.

  • Comment number 7.

    "If you think we are only hated by some individual terrorists and some muslim countries, I have news for you folks - travel to any European country and you will hear the same hatred"

    Ah yes, the "let's have mob rule" idea.

    So if you were unpopular it would mean that you were in the wrong and that it would be OK to do whatever we liked to you, would it?

  • Comment number 8.

    I think what SydneySD-6 meant by that quote is that it's not only the Islamic extremists who have qualms with the USA, but others elsewhere besides the Middle East. He/She is pointing out that too many Americans have the notion that only those in the Middle East want to see the USA fall on their knees, and that's a valid point. You can be of any race and ethnicity and have your own independent opinions.

  • Comment number 9.

    #1 wrote: "...If you think we are only hated by some individual terrorists and some muslim countries, I have news for you folks - travel to any European country and you will hear the same hatred. The perception by some is we are very ignorat people who think the world revolve around us."


    I understand your point, but the way it turns around on itself is perplexing.
    Hypothesis: Americans are ignorant of the world because we generally do not travel outside the US. In GENERAL terms, I would call that a fair assessment.
    ***However, the kind of generalization hatred that you are making (everyone in the world hates and resents us, especially Europe) hardly sways my opinion to travel abroad! Why on earth would I give up my limited vacation time from work and spend all kinds of money to travel and blend with people who hate me? Frankly, I’d just as soon stay domestic, travel to a distant state with my family and ENJOY my (again) limited vacation time. My job is stressful enough; I have no desire to become an international “guinea pig”, sacrificing my vacation time, to change opinions for the better. If your assessment is indicative of Europe, I won’t waste my children’s vacation time—or our time together as a family on vacation—being a pioneer for the average US travel vacationer. (My husband and I get 2 weeks vacation per year; we are extremely selective about where we choose to spend that time and paramount to our decision is rest, relax and spend time together as a family without the stress of everyday life).

    As to your general point, I have traveled recently outside of my country, but admittedly not outside of my own hemisphere. Still, I did not feel the hatred or resentment you describe (and no, my family and I did not perjure ourselves by claiming Canadian citizenship as some people do). I learned about two distinct cultures and even tried to learn a new language (and met some terrific people who didn’t laugh too much at me).

    Two of my children have traveled outside the US on their own, one to Venezuela, and they did not experience the situational hatred you describe.

    My brother and his family live in West Africa half-time, US the rest of the year (and have done so for 10 years). They have made friends and relationships, yet did not have to break through any pre-conceived barriers of hatred to prove themselves.

    I won’t dispute your point entirely, because my personal belief is that resentment is high in Europe. But consider this: If citizens of other nations generalize and hate all US citizens as one, collective, ignorant body of yokels, why then should we not generalize ourselves, forego the unwelcome attitudes outside our borders, and spend our hard-earned paychecks domestically?

  • Comment number 10.

    "Why on earth would I give up my limited vacation time from work and spend all kinds of money to travel and blend with people who hate me?"

    This reader, unfortunately, is a perfect example of why others hate Americans: totally self-centered in the most literal sense. Of course it is our foreign policy that has done the damage, again, totally self-centered, not to mention immature and bully-ish. the world didn't hate America until Bush invaded Iraq with his knee-jerk, schoolyard reaction to the bombing of the world trade center. It is obvious that what is important is to his ilk is maintaining the oil sucking quality of life that Americans enjoy, not working with others or caring about others.

    When I came back from a trip to Asia for a friend's wedding right after Bush's questionable reelection, I mentioned to a friend, "I think this is the first time in history that all the countries of the world have been lined up against one country". He replied "So what, we don't need them". Think again if you believe that. Not only do we harvest their resources but having the whole world against you is a terrible position to hold.

  • Comment number 11.

    bydabayou, you have hit the nail on the head! Europeans and other countries as well dislike of the States has generally been limited to the Bush Administration period. And I can understand why -- in 2000 still a financially powerful country, and aggressively attacked a country not at all tied in with 9/11. That tends to bring out not only a feeling of insecurity, but a disappointment from a country who had been more open and compatible up until that time, rather like a big bully in the classroom. Does anyone like a bully? Well, what goes around, comes around, and I think Bush and his regime have been given their comeuppance.

  • Comment number 12.

    This brief portrait of Rahim is a pleasant interlude from the barrage of 'them vs us' one reads in most of the news and/blogs. It conveys the theme that music is the universal language of peace-even when occassionally used as protest against an injustice.

    Rahim's general assessment of the US vs its citizens seems to be, as you Brits would say, spot-on. Its citizens are isolated even from the cultures and peoples of the two countries which share their borders. (I would disagree about his assessment of Canadians, however, who are not 'like' (eg, mirror images) the 'Americans' as he believes.)

    Rahim seems to take the best approach in wanting to introduce his neighbors to the rest of the world, hopefully beginning with his own culture which, along with the rest of us from North Africa and the Middle East who live in the US post September 11, 2001, has been too much maligned and distorted by the media. His oud will enable that much needed re-education, no doubt.

    I wish better success to Rahim when he mentions Iraq as a birthplace than I, who still has to explain WHAT an Alageria is after many, many years to the average US citizen:)!

    Good luck to Rahim as he casts his first vote in the realtively freedom of the US!







  • Comment number 13.

    #10:

    Your comment is just another example of generalized rhetoric.

    If wanting to spare my children and family the unwelcome reaction which it has been posted that we would receive outside the US (especially Europe) is perceived as "self-centered", answer me this----Would YOU visit this country if our citizenry actively expressed international hatred for whichever-country-you-live-in? You would SERIOUSLY clip off a portion of your paycheck, buy a plane ticket with a happy face, and by the way drag the family along willlingly for a vacation--you WOULD????

    I suspect you selectively disregarded not to listen to my reasons for my family's vacation/travel decisons.

    Then, you further ranted with insults, bleating on about 9/11, bullying, immature, knee-jerk......I'm shocked that "halliburton" wasn't in there somewhere---and fail to see how these comments are reflective of myself or my family on an individual level. And if you call that being self-centered, then I can only assume that you do not put your family as top priority and are a much better, philanthropic person than I ever will be.

    Can you enlighten me--as a person, not an entity or collective citizenry of a country---as to how your thoughts are connecting? My point of response to #1 was in assuming we as US citizens are so hated around the world, why would we choose to travel; and to further the point, it makes no sense by my own travel experience that #1's assumptions were anything other than general ASSUMPTIONS.

    How in the world does wanting to avoid a negative situation---in which my children would not only face but potentially be impacted---translate to me (personally) bullying the world? As I stated, my family and extended family have traveled outside the US. We have always treated others with respect, not condescension and a me-self important-first attitude.
    You don't know me, my family, my financial situation in which vacation planning is carefully selected as a result. Our time together as a family means a great deal to us.

    Please, How does Bush's oil sucking ilk not caring about the world or others (your words) give you any cause to judge me in the same vein as an individual person? You have no idea if I even voted for the man---or voted at all.

  • Comment number 14.

    This is a heartwarming story of Rahim's and I can imagine that there are many more such stories.

    The Americans are a warm welcoming people and generous to a fault. Outside of their own country they behave just as other visitors do.

    The British could be very boorish when visiting Spain, the French would always look down their noses at the Brits and the Germans could be very arrogant once outside their borders.

    So I dont believe there is a hatred of Americans in general. It's the American Administration that attracts the wrath of the world and especially for the last eight years.

  • Comment number 15.

    I think SydneySD-6's comment about hatred in Europe about people Americans/U.S. is too strong. As an American living in Finland I have gotten to know how people here in this part of Europe are quite well. Criticism exists among public about some things about USA but I wouldn't say it's to the extent of hatred.

  • Comment number 16.

    #10bydabayou and #11 lelpantry
    Yes they all hate us until they need us. Meanwhile, they're breaking down the doors to get in- go figure.

    Let's be clear, there is a difference between disagreeing with a policy and generalized hatred, and that is what is happening here. It's like they are getting back at us for what they think we are.
    They say we're self centered, but after the 2nd war, it was they who put America on a very high pedestal. In their minds America was a Utopia-everybody wanted in.
    No person or country can sustain that kind of expectation forever, and it's unfair to expect so. When you're that high up there's no room for mistakes, but we still put erasers on the ends of our pencils, and I expect you do to.


  • Comment number 17.

    I am a U.S. citizen and have travelled all over the world.I don't feel isolated nor hated. I would like to congratulate our new citizen and would like to listen to his music and watch him playing.

  • Comment number 18.

    WOW, Rahim Al-Haj is an amazing person.

    Welcome to the USA. Vote your heart.

  • Comment number 19.

    If I may clarify. I wrote "some" in trying to explain my experience of the hatred towards us. I did not mean to say we are hated by all. If it came out like that I am sorry. My intention was only to agree with Rahim that yes we are isolated and it is true this isolation might be because we don't generally travel. I was also trying to make a point that the hatred or I should have used the word "negative view" towards us is not isolated to extremists.

  • Comment number 20.

    tiptoplisamich, can't you see that you are being just as narrow-minded and generalizing as anyone else on this board? The very fact that you assume that you and your children are going to be in a "negative situation" by traveling abroad or that you might not possibly "ENJOY" a trip overseas suggests that you are guilty of ignorance and making broad sweeping generalizations.

    Sure, there are a lot of people in the world that hate us, and these people can even be found in Europe. But it is extremely unlikely that you will experience this "hatred" firsthand. I have traveled to over 50 countries and take an international trip at least once a year. I can tell you from firsthand experience that I have never had someone behave badly towards me or ruin one of my trips because I am from the USA.

  • Comment number 21.

    Jon, thanks for this story - I'll keep it in mind as I head to the polls in a few weeks (unbelievable that it's so soon). Rahim, I'm so pleased to have you as a new compatriot - I hope your faith in democracy will prove well-founded. Your story is an important reminder that whatever the ills of the world, war is rarely the answer!!

  • Comment number 22.

    "After the 2nd war... in their minds America was a Utopia-everybody wanted in."
    -----------------

    Surely it was a Utopia 400 years ago. Mostly it's been a magnet for cheap labour or a haven of last resort. And it was never perfect. Rahim Al-Haj mentions the 'isolation' but Americans have always been separate, lacking the collective identity of say the Commonwealth. And they sometimes had the unappealing brashness of those who rarely met real opposition, unlike Europeans, who struggled with each other's armies, economies, ethnic tensions, and the maintenance and dismantling of empires.

    But still the American character was good-natured, relaxed and innovative. I certainly thought so when I first went in 1976 for the bicentennial; spent a whole month and had a wonderful time.

    Today the American character is truculent, conceited, paranoid, relentlessly populist and bad-tempered, and you can be forgiven for thinking that the country's apologists are just the easily-impressed, the self-interested, the materialistic, and the craven. "Well there's your problem" as they say.

    Rahim Al-Haj doesn't necessarily confound that picture. He could have emigrated to Europe, and if he had there wouldn't have been this kind of article. Rather, the BBC would have done him the courtesy of talking about him as a musician instead of dipping him head-first into the American super-ego. The comments here would have been from music fans, not people like you and me endlessly discussing the US - which Americans profess to find so tedious!

  • Comment number 23.

    Having traveled in Europe and Asia and lived for some time in several countries, it has occured to me that Americans are no more, and in many cases much less ignorant of people and cultures than most. Also, I have listened to comments of hatred from a number of people, who when asked, express interest in comming to America. I conclude than anti-Americanism in many quarters is hardly an inch deep.

  • Comment number 24.

    I am happy for Rahim, but he has it wrong. We killed the snake with very little damage to the home. He also has an opportunity to vote in his native land.

    How did he see the war if he has been in the USA for 8 years?

    He should feel a kinship with McCain since they have both shared the experience of torture. I am dissappointed in his support for Obama, I think Rahim should do a little more homework on the two candidates.

  • Comment number 25.

    lochravin: "Yes they all hate us until they need us. Meanwhile, they're breaking down the doors to get in- go figure."

    Well - this is not entirely true.

    Europe, and much of the rest of the world has been extremely grateful to the US after WW II.

    US foreign policy, and the personal behaviour of some US citizens who were very visible in Europe (mostly soldiers stationed here), has gone a very long way to destroy this gratefulness; and the original positive feeling was so strong that this took generations.

    I've lived next to a US army base, and I know a lot of other people who have - there is a reason that there were "Ami go home" signs all the way from the '60s to now.
    A lot of the troops were behaving to a large extent like an occupying force - unchecked, often outrageous, getting away with anything both individually and as an institution.

    The US government in the meantime has propped up a large number of bloody dictatorships all over the world, behaved agressively, and US foreign policy during the cold war is to a greater or lesser extent responsible for most of the international mess right now (wholly responsible for what happened in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan since the '70s ... choosing the wrong allies is not good for you).

    A similar thing happened after 2001 - a great rush of international sympathy and military and material aid, agreement over involvement in Afghanistan, etc. turned into summary hatred over the way US foreign policy was shaped later.

    As to breaking down the doors - by now I am hard pressed to find anyone here who actually wants to live in the US even for a limited period of time, and I work in a field where some "US experience" used to be a must.
    Very qualified people are leaving the US in droves.

    As to needing - by now we have reached the point where a number of world leaders are looking to authoritarian Russia and communist China for economic and military cooperation and stability. They might not be too savoury, but at least they are predictable.

    tiptoplisamich - :-) good on You for spending some of Your holiday abroad.
    I really hope that most people won't go as far in "anti-Americanism" as to dislike individuals before getting to know them.
    This kind of generatlization is just a bit silly.

    But, yes, the international behaviour of the country's leadership has been a shambles for some time ...

  • Comment number 26.

    Greetings, Rahim, from a fellow American and musician.

    I hope you have the opportunity to tell your story to many many more of us.

    For those of you who think that if we'll just walk away from the outside world that all will be well:
    Remember Rahim. Saddam only imprisoned and tortured him. The Taleban types would have murdered him, and his family, just for making music!

    We native-born Americans take so much for granted, and forget to thank Heaven for our wonderful freedoms.

    Great story, Jon!

  • Comment number 27.

    This is a touching story. Thanks, and welcome to America Rahim. Hope you do well.

  • Comment number 28.

    One thing that is important to understand: For people in Europe, foreign travel is easy. Just hop on a train, and within a matter or hours (or in some places even just minutes) you are in another country where people speak a different language. Even in the pre-Chunnel days, for Brits it only required a ferry ride. In contrast, for most Americans foreign travel is at least a continent away. Even Canada or Mexico is a distant trip for many of us. Lower air fares have helped, but by the time you also add up meals and lodging and everything else, foreign travel is still very expensive and mostly unaffordable for the vast majority of people in the US. Even for my wife and I, both well educated and with good jobs, have only been able to manage one trip overseas so far (to France), and that was almost 17 years ago. I'm increasingly doubtful that we'll be able to afford any more trips given the state of the economy.

    Another thing: In most European countries (and indeed in many other countries around the world), ALL of the school children are taught a foreign language. They start learning young, too. It isn't that way here in the US. Most of our school children don't get a chance to study a foreign language until they have entered secondary education (around age 13-14). It isn't even mandatory at some school systems any more, and I would venture that the majority of our students graduate from secondary school unable to even carry on a simple conversation in any language other than English (excepting those where another language, like Spanish, is spoken in the home). Even some of our colleges and universities have relaxed their foreign language requirements, so we are turning out increasing numbers of college graduates with no foreign language ability.

    A third problem is the failure of our mass media to inform and educate. We have a public broadcasting network and a few special interest channels on cable where one can see some programming that exposes one to other countries and cultures, but these are viewed by only a small minority. Most people view programming that is totally USA-centric, and often featuring inaccurate or even insulting depictions of people from other countries or cultures.

    A final problem has already been mentioned by someone else: We just don't get that many days off. When one gets four weeks of paid holiday each year, then that gives one plenty of time for a trip to a foreign country. With only a week, or even two, one starts to wonder if it is really worth the trouble. Subtract out the transit time, and one is left with very little time to actually enjoy oneself at the the destination. Thus, there are not that many of us that do bother, at least not until we are retired and have the time for an extended overseas holiday.

    I am not putting the above comments forward as excuses for behavior and attitudes which are all too common amongst some Americans (but which I do not share). However, I would suggest that people from countries other than the US do try to imagine yourselves being in our shoes before being so very critical of us.

  • Comment number 29.

    #25 mivadar
    I've lived next to a US army base, and I know a lot of other people who have - there is a reason that there were "Ami go home" signs all the way from the '60s to now.
    A lot of the troops were behaving to a large extent like an occupying force - unchecked, often outrageous, getting away with anything both individually and as an institution.

    You have just confirmed my main point by making personal attacks on American citizens. You're talking about subjective thinking here. I'm sure there were many who saw those soldiers as guys who just wanted to have a good time.
    After the war, the UK wasn't the most happy place to be. (according to my English wife) Goods were in short supply-if any-and everything was very serious. Along comes the Yanks with their pockets bulging and confidence to boot. I'm sure that caused much resentment.
    Things are different over there now, and I bet those American soldiers you're talking about would look like well behaved young men compared to those drunken louts who now puke on your streets after being thrown out of your pubs.

  • Comment number 30.

    I am sorry, Rahim may be a brilliant musician but he is quite ignorant about North America, his new adopted continent.

    He says that Canadians are just like Americans, including the way they have treated Mexico?

    Speaking as a Scot who has lived extensively in the US (Berkeley CA, Denver CO, Chicago IL, New York City, and Cambridge MA) for 8 years and also in Canada before that I can say that Canada is QUITE unlike the US, even though it may superficially look a bit like its smaller (geographically) brasher neighbour to the south (for example, I guess it uses some of the same street signs).

    I looked at Rahim's website and there is a listing there of all his concerts, from 2000 to 2009. An impressive list, to be sure, and very long. But not a SINGLE concert in Canada in all that time. In fact, since 2001, Rahim has played all his concerts on US soil.

    I conclude that Rahim has been brainwashed by the stereotypical image most Americans have of Canada (usually never having been there or got to know any Canadians, of course).

    That's a pity. I am sure if he actually went to Canada and played a few concerts there, they would love him.

    Remember, I am speaking as a Scot, not an irked Canadian. And I have lived in Mexico too, and I know that Mexicans typically think of Canada in quite different terms from the US.

    And as for treating Mexico in the same way? That's quite offensive, really. For a start, Canada isn't building any long walls on its border. It doesn't make undocumented presence a crime. Immigration and travel to Canada from Mexico is easier. And the NAFTA agreement was imposed on Mexico by the US (albeit with the help of a complacent Mexican government at the time), not Canada. Canada has its own issues with the US on NAFTA - for example in the way it has signed its water rights away, and opened up its borders to the influx of American media (especially print media).

    Please, Rahim, go to Canada and play a few concerts there.

  • Comment number 31.

    What an inappropriate remark (#24) from cambones! I expect Rahim has a better informed perspective on his homeland than any American who has never been there, which is most of us. Who he feels "kinship with" is not something which others can judge.

    Your vote is your own, Rahim, and you don't need to justify it to anyone.

  • Comment number 32.

    I agree with must of the things said above and certainly Canadians are intelectualy above the Americans.
    I adopted the USA as my country upon becoming a citizen 45 years ago, I love to travel and agree that my fellow countrymen are ignorants.
    The question is WHY?
    Is it just because they truly think that nothing outside of the USA is worth or is it plainly the ... I do not care, or any mix there of.
    Another alternative is to keep them ignorant by Design, it is easier to maintain the workforce and the legions happy with, like in the Old Rome: Bread and Circus.

  • Comment number 33.

    Welcome Rahim. The U.S. is built on an idea; not race or religion etc.
    Does not mean we do not have problems, but the problems are supposed to be worked on.

    Rahim, we don't all treat Mexicans badly, though I must admit there are some tensions here that are too complicated for me to answer here. (Jon, books have been written about that sort of thing in the Southwest).
    I have to agree with the response from our Canadian friend. Were it not for the Canadian friends I've made, especially in Toastmasters, I would be completely ignorant about Canada.

    Europe-I have not been to Europe since 1999, therefore, before the present Administration, and then I was in Central Europe (Austria, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland), where as an American, I was treated extremely well. I agree, I am not going to visit or spend money in a place in which I am not welcome. Not all Americans are the "Ugly American." Bet I could come up with ugly Slovaks or Brits.;-)

  • Comment number 34.

    I am so happy to see the comments of welcome to Rahim.

    To anyone who has never attended a citizenship ceremony, with all my heart, I SAY GO TO ONE.

    It is beautiful, moving and will give you a new appreciation of our country. When my son-in-law became a citizen, we all cried so much that I was so grateful for the boxes of tissues provided by the officials! We were not alone in our tears. 87 people from 52 different countries took their oath of allegiance that day.

    Where have our ideals gone? Why has immigration become such a painful issue?

  • Comment number 35.

    I agree that American are ignorant of the rest of the world. I think that's mostly in the more rural areas, and a legacy of our somewhat myopic heritage which incidently goes back to England. From the time of the Revolution we've had this cultural bias toward ourselves and a view that we as white christian Americans are superior to everyone else. It's reflected in the way we've treated the natives of this country, the 'Manifest Destiny' doctrine of the 19th Century (which states that we were divinely destines to take over the country from shore to shore), the way we treated immigarnts (Mexicans, Chinese, Irish, Jews, etc) and the way we conducted ourselves in international relations. Some of this we came by through our historic break from England (a great feat) and the succeses we had in building a nation from the ground up.
    Yet that does not , in my mind, excuse us from our sins. We've come a long way from the days where foreigners could be gunned down on the street on sheer whim and go unpunished, but we still have a long way to go. Hopefully in the next administration we can work on that.

  • Comment number 36.

    Congrats Rahim and welcome to responsible citizenship.

    As for the other comments about Americans abroad, that generally hasn´t been my experience travelling abroad. People are generally friendly everywhere you go, with only the occasional crazy anti-american. In general, I think people abroad are more at odds with our government than they are with the American people. Many people I have met actually want to visit the U.S. It´s still the land of dreams for many people and they will be quick to tell you that they have relatives here. I´ve even met a Moroccan who liked George Bush, country music and wanted to move to Texas.

    There is a certain cultural arrogance that everybody has when they are travelling, not just Americans. People rarely act the same when they´re not in their home country. i´ve seen too many Brits, Italians, Germans, French and Spaniards misbehaving in other countries too many times to naively believe that we have a monopoly on bad behavior or insensitivity. Everyone is a selfish jerk when they´re on vacation, it seems. So, it´s up to the Americans who spend more time in these countries to contradict and disprove these stereotypes.

    If you spend any extended amount of time in any foreign country, it won´t take you long to find out that most people are self-satisfied nationalists. We´ve always got it better than everybody else; at least that´s what our local politicians are continually telling us. The "unglobalized" view is thinking that this is a solely American phenomenon.

    The problem is: Since we´re on the international stage more often than everybody else and make more of the big decisions than everyone else, it´s easy to "hate on" the U.S. Everyone knows that we also have made some poor foreign policy decisions.

    The trouble is also that Americans read the above commentaries and go abroad with a paranoia about how all Americans are despised abroad. Generally, if you travel and expect people to speak your language, you´ll get a sometimes hostile reception. If you take some time to learn the language of the country in which you will be travelling, you´ll get a much better reception, I think.

    Also, yes, we do have some contradictory immigration policies, but many of the immigrants come here because in spite of the low wages and difficult living conditions, it´s still ten times better here than in Mexico. Here, people can still afford to buy a house, a car and still send half of their income back to Mexico. Also, Iraq and Mexico are the two most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. They´d rather take their chances on this country´s shoddy gov´t than being hunted down by the mexican army for speaking out against abuses, or being enslaved to a feudal land system.

  • Comment number 37.

    Welcome to Citenship, Rahim.

    I was going to refute some of the predictable Anti-American diatribe posted, but I think Rahim does a pretty good job of it himself.

  • Comment number 38.

    A lot of nonsense in these comments. Having traveled to many far off countries as an American I do not get this hatred that some of you are talking about. I've been to Kazakhstan where the only other foreigners besides myself that I met there were other Americans. My travels in China I bumped into many other Americans and Aussies. I've been to Sweden and Norway and found nothing but love.

    The only 'hatred' I've seen of Americans abroad is on message boards like these from people who probably don't do foreign travel themselves.

    One reason a good bit of Americans don't travel abroad is that you can get every type of environment right here in the States. I'm based out of Charleston, SC yet have been to Seattle, WA and all along the west coast which is over 3000 miles (4800 kilometers) away by vehicle.

    I think people believe Americans should be more sophisticated being the wealthiest nation but there are over 300 million of us living here from dirt poor to the richest in the world. You are as free here to make of yourself whatever you want, more so than anywhere else in the world IMO.

  • Comment number 39.

    Wonderful Story!
    -- I think I need to go CD shopping... the Oud looks wonderful, I'd love to hear it.


    Traditionally, Americans haven't traveled abroad - either because our vacations are too short or the dollar too weak. Then, there's the running joke that if you travel abroad, remember to say "Don't shoot, I'm Canadian!"

    Perhaps these have contributed to that mild case of Xenophobia of which I have spoken.

    BUT - I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Istanbul and found everyone I met to be most kind and helpful... even as I stumbled through phrase books. I loved the Grand Bazaar, the Sultan's Palace, the Blue Mosque. It was incredible.


    Although, leaving a Mosque one day (this was back in '95) we bumped into some Iraqi women who spoke English. They were kind, but very curious. They asked us why we hated their people so much and wanted us to tell our president to stop treating them so badly... (?!?) She seriously thought we were supporting Hussein.
    -- This really surprised me, because the US press made us out to be Heroes and Victors in Iraq, and enemies of Saddam. Oops.

    I was openly apologetic and assured her that I had no hatred for her people whatsoever.
    -- I'm thinking that our sanctions really messed up life for a bunch of people.
    -- I'm also thinking that the war hasn't been too great, either.

    I hope folks will be as brave, loving and forgiving as Rahim and the women I met in Istanbul. But, I think it helps to meet people, to be humbled abroad, and to come home and exhibit our right to CHANGE the way things are working.

    Which is what I plan to do this year.

    VOTE - it's a great way to send a message to your President.


    BTW: I also met a few Kurds in Turkey, but the only Armenians I've ever met were in Los Angeles. Hmmm.... yummy string cheese.

  • Comment number 40.

    #9, tiptoplisamich:
    "I understand your point, but the way it turns around on itself is perplexing. […]Why on earth would I give up my limited vacation time […] to travel and blend with people who hate me?"

    Well, actually, the way YOUR pseudo-argument turns around on itself is perplexing (just a way of not saying "hilarious").

    Just to make sure you know who I am: I am a European who, like Rahim, left his country (at the age of 20) because of a totalitarian regime there, and settled in another one. I, too, am insisting everyone in my family MUST vote (because they CAN!!). But that’s beside the point here.
    I have seen a lot of the World, and personally know many Americans. Most are great, really! But on the first (20 years ago) of my many visits to the US, I had a real shock: a clearly "upper-middle class" lady, having heard that I lived in Belgium, muttered for a good while and then asked "Huh… is that in Brussels?"
    Well, I’m quite sure you would be appalled if somebody, say in Paris, asked you "Oh yeah, Arkansas… is that in Little Rock??" You sure would think (s)he was ignorant beyond comprehension.
    And the same is true for us here in Europe (and beyond): we are truly appalled by the apparent ignorance of anything outside the US even on part of "upper-middle class" Americans, or at least many of them (let’s not generalize!). Ther’s no "hatred", or "anti-americanism" there: it’s just that we are truly appalled by the ignorance.

    So here comes my point: rather than trying to open your mind a bit and travel abroad so that you would NOT be perceived of limited knowledge of the larger World (that is, you would NOT be "hated" by those outside the US for exactly THAT reason!), you prefer not to travel at all, so that you would not be "hated". Isn’t that a hilarious contradiction? Wow… I suppose all of your reading is "USA Today" as well (gosh, they put it to my door every morning in the hotel while I’m in the US, but I just can’t read the ignorant crap, sorry).
    Well, all I can say is that THAT’s exactly what they call "insular mentality". And it’s not appreciated here, that’s for sure.

    Learning things is, nearly by definition, taking risks. But please, do take the risk: you will only come out of it STRONGER (more educated, more open, more tolerant)! And you will join my list of great Americans I already know. And it could just be that you will change our general perception here of the "average American".

    BTW, no wonder Palin makes such an impact with the GOP ignorants with her idea that "since she can see Russia from her window" (honestly, I even doubt she actually can!), she "knows Russia". Gosh, just incredible… so everyone who saw a postcard of the Atomium "knows Belgium"??!

    Fare well!

  • Comment number 41.

    someone please tell me....

    since we Americans are so hated, and we are so ignorant, why is it that so many people want to move here??? I don't see them lining up to move to the middle east....

    (b.t.w.... I'm on my 5th passport and have lost count how many times I've traveled overseas)

  • Comment number 42.

    A great many of you on this board have been extremely rude to tiptoplisamich. Unfortunately, rudeness and hatred are common on this board. I know, I know, America is horrid, every single American is stupid, ignorant about the world, etc. How did we ever mange to accomplish so much if we're so bad?

    Maybe it's the media. All we Americans hear is how bad we are (I wonder how many Europeans cheered on 9/11?). I'm not talking about the Bush administration here, but the American people. The criticism of us has gotten to be so ridiculous that we don't take seriously the legitimate criticism. As for tiptoplisamich, she has a point. Why should we spend our hard earned money on countries that hate us?

  • Comment number 43.

    hello. i've been reading these posts for sometime now and would finally like to contribute my point of view. let me begin by stating my credentials, as these sorts of ad hominem arguments have an unfortunate amount of traction. I am an american, and I have lived outside of the united states for 14 years now: 6 years in Canada and 8 years in Europe (UK, Germany, France).

    I'd like to first summarize my overall point of view. In my opinion, these sorts of very important discussions degenerate very quickly when they become 'essentialized', i.e., when 'america' and 'europe' become viewed as monolithic entities. Now, there are important cultural differences between the US and Europe. (I'm sorry, but I don't think that Canada is significantly different from the US. North American culture is regionalized; e.g., an Albertan is more similar to someone in Montana than someone in the Maritimes. The arbitrary line on the map does not make a culture.) However, I would like to point out that there is as much diversity within the populations of Europe and the United States as there is between Europe and the United States. One could present a myriad of examples to support this view (e.g., immigration policies, treatment of ethic minorities, racism, environmental issues, etc.). However, I would like to particularly respond right now to the vitriol expressed by 1european.

    Americans are ignorant of other cultures. I don't see how one could possibly deny this. This is a problem that should be rectified. However, in and of itself, this point only really reveals a failing of the US educational system and the realities of North America's geography. The problem is that this point comes to represent something far greater than it ought to; namely, that Americans are willfully ignorant of other cultures and that therefore Americans are an intolerant people. This is a conclusion I have often heard over the past 14 years, and I feel as though the vitriolic views expressed by 1european are unfortunately representative of far too many I have met.

    So, is this conclusion true? Well, in some cases, it is. I am not at all shocked that 1european met a 'middle-class' American woman who didn't know the difference between Belgium and Brussels. However, I'm from Chicago, the third largest city in North America. I can tell you that most people I have met have no idea where Chicago is and couldn't point to it on a map. The same could be said of Illinois. The population of Illinois is greater than that of Belgium, as is its size and GDP. Is it more important for an American to know where Belgium is than for a European to know where Chicago, IL is? Maybe, maybe not; I think debating this point would be interesting. However, for my specific purposes here, what I want to try and resist is this myth that Europeans are categorically better informed and knowledgeable than Americans. Again, there is as much ignorance and diversity within both populations as there is between both populations.

    Allow me to take this point one step further. Americans are not anymore willfully ignorant or intolerant of other cultures than Europeans. Just because Europeans generally score higher on a standardized World Geography test than Americans--or that they travel more often to other countries--does not necessarily entail that they are more accepting, culturally sensitive and tolerant. For example, is a Briton who goes to Spain every year, who doesn't speak a lick of Spanish, who sits in a bar on the Costa del Sol eating omelette and chips while watching the Chelsea match really more culturally sensitive just because s/he has traveled to a geographically distinct country? And, I dare say, one could find similar behavior from many other European nationalities; many Europeans travel to other countries in order to be with their compatriots and consume their favored products from home. My point here, however, is not to pick on Britions or add to the European/American vitriol. My specific point in this paragraph is to suggest that mere travel to other countries does not necessarily entail more culturally tolerant views or behavior. My more general point--to reiterate--is to suggest that essentializing European and American culture into monolithic entities, and not recognizing the diversity that exists within both 'cultures', is an absurd and intellectually irresponsible conclusion. It's this sort of discourse that feeds racism and ethic discrimination.

  • Comment number 44.

    #43 rutherfod: Well said. I couldn't agree with you more.

    I would like to mention that although all of Europe is slightly larger than the US, it is only a hop, skip, and a jump for Europeans to visit a foreign country. Except for the UK, they all share a border with a foreign country.
    Here in the US, we share a border with two countries which are many miles away for most of us to visit for a weekend, and it would be impossible for most Europeans not to visit a foreign country, unless they're hermits.

  • Comment number 45.

    As an American, I find stories like this to be rather uplifting, and a reminder of how much we take for granted.

    Also, in my travels to Bolivia, Guatemala, Honduras, Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, I have never experienced this much-touted hatred of Americans. Every person that I've interacted with in every country has been pleasant, friendly, patient (actually more so than in my own country!), and mostly interested or even pleased to meet an actual American. Bolivian farmers labored for an hour with their old tractor to help me when I was stranded; everybody in Switzerland was wonderful; the couple in Austria were all smiles and thrilled that a real live American had stopped to buy ice cream and Coke at their gas station---there are lots of great people out there!

    I might suggest that either some of my fellow Americans may be acting like jerks and attracting hostility, or are hanging out in low-class dives frequented by jerks of their own. You find jerks all over, and they all act the same.

  • Comment number 46.

    #45 rockhoundP
    You had me going there until the last paragraph.
    Have you read any of these post?

    You resort to insulting name calling just like some of the European posters.
    What is your intent behind your diatribe, brown nosing to make brownie points? Or is it to show us how much above all this petty squabbling you are? Ugh! You've stepped in it.

  • Comment number 47.

    I think Rutherford has summed up the major counterpoints to a lot of these commentaries. I´d just like to add that Europe intellectuals aren´t any more aware of the outside world than U.S. intellectuals. It´s always best to compare apples with apples. Take your average redneck from Central Spain and you can pretty much expect the same cultural knowledge as someone from backwoods West Virginia.

    When Europeans criticize Americans for not knowing where Belgium is, I don´t really see this as a measure of ignorance. Geographical knowledge is no indicator of culture, and geographic knowledge about the capitals of Europe is even less impressive, since they are all relatively close together and economically dependent on one another. Spain for example, is a little bigger than Texas and has the population of California. Texas has a GSP of one trillion and holds the headquarters of most Fortune 500 countries. Decisions made in the Texas economy have world-wide repercussions, but how many Belgians, French, Germans, Spaniards, etc. can put even ONE Texan city on a map?

    The only reason an AVERAGE Belgian in the street might know something about America is due to our dominance in the their media, not because of some alleged monopoly on cosmopolitanism. They´re not more enlightened, although that is what they insinuate when bringing up this sort of anecdotal evidence. The reason this sort of experience shocks and scandalizes the Belgian is that he hasn´t spent enough time travelling his own country and polling his own people on their knowledge of the US. I´m sure he would have equal cause for scandal and embarrassment.

    If the U.S. is universally recognized as the largest and most technologically powerful economy in the world, with a GDP of over $13 trillion and with almost 2 trillion in imports last year, and you´re country with a GDP of $376 billion and the fifth largest consumer of your exports is the US, which is not even in Europe like the other four, it´s in your best interest to learn as much as you can about the US. I´m sorry, but Americans have very little reason to learn about Belgium, apart from a few Americans with Belgian ancestry.

    Twenty years ago, college Spaniards studied French, now they study English and (some) Chinese. Go figure. Fifty years ago they learned German because they moved to Germany, Switzerland, and Austria due to an economic crisis at home.

    Let´s be realistic, too. How many European universities have centralized study abroad programs? Americans study abroad far more frequently than Europeans displace themselves to America. A relative few Europeans at best might study in an Erasmus program, but those are only the brightest who manage to get a few limited scholarships.

    In fact, I´ve found that most Europeans can´t put four or five US cities on a map, and forget Canada; that´s asking the impossible. They also hold strange notions that all Americans eat huge breakfasts, drive SUVS, and love George Bush. I really suspect the only reason Europeans speak other languages and know about other cultures is out of economic necessity, not cosmopolitanism. The U.S. has been relatively self-sufficient and thus inward-looking. I´m not saying that this is a positive thing. Americans have historically had no need to look outside of the US, and this idea that cultures that learn other languages or can place a few European capitals on a map (having never been there) are somehow more tolerant is facile and wrongheaded. Most of the time they do this to survive because they live in countries that depend on tourism and foreign direct investment and exports. There are always a few isolated individuals who learn languages for the joy of it, but we have plenty of those here, too.

  • Comment number 48.

    I think it comes down to the fact that each person is different, and it's a mistake to stereotype. Unfortunately, that seems to be part of human nature.

    I've never had the opportunity to travel abroad, although my parents were lucky enough to do so after they retired. However, having lived in several different US cities, I can say with certainty that Americans come in all sizes, shapes, colors, personalities, and religious, philosophical and political beliefs. I'm sure the same can be said of the citizens of any country in the world. I did have the opportunity to meet many foreign exchange students while I was in college, and each one was wonderfully unique.

    I don't expect all Britons to be like the characters of a BBC America sitcom, and I would hope we Americans aren't viewed as all being like the characters from an American television show. That's entertainment, not reality. I'm just as upset with a loud, obnoxious American as anybody from another country would be. And please don't judge us all by our government - remember that a large proportion of our voters DIDN'T vote for the current administration.

  • Comment number 49.

    #46 Lochravin,

    Apparently you think that the nasty American-bashing Europeans need to be put in their place. Perhaps you have an "us versus them" worldview. The point you miss is that there are jerks all over, American and foreign. If you think that pointing out this fact constitutes a "diatribe" then maybe you have some sort of superiority complex and can't deal with the truth.

    The biggest jerk that I encountered in Switzerland was an American, and it is understandable that whoever was stuck with him on that train will come away with the view of belligerent, loud-mouthed Americans.

    The point is, wherever you go you should be respectful and be good to people, and the chances are good that you will get along with people wherever you are. I doubt you get it.

  • Comment number 50.

    I agree with most of what #49 says. Courtesy goes a long way. There are plenty of jerky people everywhere.

    It´s not a matter of putting anyone in their place, but people need to be honest about their own countries' make-up and not ignore facts to look superior. If someone from a European country or any other country bashes the U.S. based on anecdotal evidence of one random individual, they should be taken to task for lazy reasoning. Or they should be led to recognize the similarities in their own country. It´s only fair to protest stereotypes when they´re aired. No one should be forced to listen to silly clichés about americans' ignorance, mainly from people who´ve never come here.

  • Comment number 51.

    Hello,

    Well, to all of you who considered my comment as a "diatribe", be assured that it wasn’t (intended to be) one: it was just a simple attempt to EXPLAIN what may be seen (from here, yes, Belgium… and MANY other places around the World) as one of the reasons of what does appear to be a real animosity between Europeans and Americans.
    Let me tell you from the outset that I for one have NO interest at the animosity, as I do wish it would stop NOW. For God’s sake, when I arrived to Belgium 25 years ago, I was collected and cared for by an American family during nine years (the most difficult ones!), and I will NEVER forgive that generosity!!! Can’t you understand that somebody who truly loves SOME Americans can as well be sorry and critical of some (and even most of the) OTHERS??
    What I would like to see is mutual respect, that’s all. LEARN to know the others (at least a little bit!), do NOT think you’re (or your country is) the ONLY one really important in this World… because the World is actually a HUGE place, MUCH larger than the US (or Europe, for that matter).

    Oh, by the way, I’ve been to Chicago several times (the Sears Tower is REAL huge and impressive when you’re at the foot of it, much more impressive than on the postcards… and the Corner Bakery is absolutely lovely, although the ladies do sometimes have a heavy local accent difficult for foreigners (convinced by now I really CAN place Chicago on the map, folks??!)).

    And just to finish with the argument: English is not even my mother tongue… and neither is the French of my adopted country… or the German of Austria where I spent a year clearing my papers (I’m basically on par with Rahim!). That’s just to tell you that I am, basically, an EXTERNAL observer of the sad state of the affairs, and a very saddened one.

    Finally, in reply to one of the more grotesque replies to my post: well, I am not sure there is really much to brag about the "accomplishments" of America now, right at the moment where your banking system is taking everybody down into the sink with it. In fact, it looks like the really BIG accomplishment was to live above your means during a whole generation and just pretend how "grand" you were. Let me remind you that it’s trivial to brag about your new flat TV… when in fact it’s owned by your bank and you can’t afford to pay for it.

    Fare well!!

  • Comment number 52.

    1european,

    So the current financial crisis in America has wiped away all of America's accomplishments, huh? Good thing Europe has never, ever, ever had a crisis or two of its own.

    I'm afraid it's a fact that every country will have a financial crisis, several in fact. America will recover. Sorry.

  • Comment number 53.

    KathyinTN:

    >So the current financial crisis in America has wiped away all of America's accomplishments, huh?

    Of course it didn't. Nobody in their right mind would pretend America didn't accomplish many great things. But so did many others... they just don't constantly brag about being the greatest of all, and of all times. Maybe THAT's one of the causes of the current animosity?

    >America will recover. Sorry.

    Of course it will, and it's in everybody's interest that it does very soon. Please do read my posts carefully, you will realize that I simply pointed out that right now, a lower profile would be much more appropriate.
    Mind you: the French are often bragging about their "Grandeur"... and I cannot stand that either.

    Good luck, America!

  • Comment number 54.

    1european, just because someone disagrees with you doesn't mean that we didn't read your post carefully.

  • Comment number 55.

    To1european

    Tolerance is something we can all practice. I read your posts and do not see them as anti-American. I think you did well in expressing your thoughts. I ,also, am not a native English speaker so sometimes I do not express myself as well as I would like to do and sometimes I misunderstand the words of others.

    I think that all of us here should give each other some tolerance. Many have shared their thoughts and feelings. We can have respect for each other even if we do not always agree. It is good to see both sides of an issue.

  • Comment number 56.

    I've been reading your blog for awhile now, Jon, and am finding it and the commentary very interesting. Thank you.

    I just wanted to comment on a couple of things that came up in the comments section.

    I think people seem to be misunderstanding the point that tiptoplisamich was trying to make. She was not saying that she would not travel outside the United States. She and other family members clearly have done so. The point is that spreading the idea that we(Americans) are universally hated by all outside our borders does not encourage us to travel. And, indeed, as others have pointed out, universal hatred is not an accurate assessment of the situation.

    As to why we don't travel as much outside the country, others have already pointed out some very good reasons, such as expense and time constraints due to distance. All of these things tend to encourage a vacation within our own borders.

    I do agree with 1european's comment at 4:38 a.m. that we all should show more respect for each other. Which is why his stereotyping of Americans as loud-mouthed braggerts is rather disappointing.

    My cousin's family was fortunate enough to be in the position of hosting an exchange student from Belgium. She is a lovely person and they have maintained a relationship with her and her family. They have visited them in Belgium and she and her family have continued visiting my cousin. No one would ever consider the visitors from Belgium to be uneducated, yet they were totally clueless the first time they visited in regad to the vast distances between places in the United States. When they came the last time they had planned on taking a road trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota together. When the Belgians arrived they suggested to my cousin that they include a quick trip to Canada to visit some friends, as well, since it was just next door. They were only staying a week. My cousin had to explain that there just wasn't enough time to do both because of the distance involved.

    I have met any number of anti-American posters on the internet. I somehow doubt that their attitude is entirely due to the war in Iraq. I think there are other factors involved, which may or may not have anything to do with our actions.

    Last, but certainly not least, Rahim, congratulations on becoming an American citizen. I hope your life here is a long and happy one. :)




  • Comment number 57.

    Hello again (and probably the last time in this thread),

    aquarizonagal wrote:
    I read your posts and do not see them as anti-American.

    And you are quite right. Thanks!


    lynnetteinmn wrote:
    I do agree with 1european's comment at 4:38 a.m. that we all should show more respect for each other. Which is why his stereotyping of Americans as loud-mouthed braggerts is rather disappointing.

    I regret to have given you that impression, but if your re-read me more carefully, you will find that in #51 I have been referring to ONE very specific reaction to my earlier post ("Finally, in reply to ONE of the more grotesque replies to my post..."), namely to #47. I honestly believe (and hope) that there is NOTHING in my posts that would suggest stereotyping on my part - quite on the contrary, in fact.


    Fare well, and let's hope this financial mess will really be solved, and we can all stop and listen to the oud.

  • Comment number 58.

    I think it's time for all of us to put a sock in it.

 

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