|photo: Omar Sobhani|
Since Floridian "pastor" Terry Jones made worldwide headlines for "executing" the Koran (apparently, he considered shooting, shredding, igniting, or "drowning" Islam's holy book), I worry that people in this region mistake one man's extremism for American ideology. Since some U.S. citizens draw conclusions about the Middle East based isolated incidents of religious fanaticism, why wouldn't the local population make similar deductions based on our bad behavior? Either way, headlines can easily put ex-pats at risk, as can the manners of those living overseas. Since moving to Amman, here's what's made me most uncomfortable:
* Amman, Fall of 2011: Near the end of Ramadan, elected American officials wish a room of Muslim Jordanians "Happy Rosh Hashanah." (Um, seriously! I realize Israel and Jordan share a border, but there's hardly mistaking one country for the other...!!?)
*A Congressman asks King Abdullah how Arab Spring is affecting Jordan's general population, considering that most of its citizens are "illiterate." (Note: more than 90 percent of Jordanians can read.)
*U.S. Republican Presidential candidate hopeful claims Palestinians are an "invented" people and then goes on to characterize them as "terrorists." (Thanks a lot. Your attempt to placate potential voters in Iowa -- front page news in The Jordan Times -- made Americans look like a bunch of jackasses.)
Although the vast majority of ex-pats are very respectful of our host country, there are a few people here who make things difficult. To those I say:
*Please stop complaining that "no on here speaks English." Frankly, most people in Amman do speak English -- in addition to Arabic, and sometimes French, Spanish, German, or something else.
*Stop criticizing produce such as corn or potatoes. As in, "Thanksgiving is ruined because my mashed potatoes don't taste the way they do at home." "This corn chowder is nothing like what they serve at that little restaurant in Reston!"
*Don't mock Jordanians for picnicking by the highway. Sure, the spot isn't ideal. There are very few trees here (it's the desert, after all) and locals are making the best of limited resources.
*So what if Chili's doesn't serve margaritas and that their sandwiches feature beef bacon instead of pork. Plenty of restaurants serve liquor, and pig can be found at the co-op or that specialty butcher near the market that sells "American" products like BBQ Pringles and Chef Boyardee.
*Please refrain from acting superior when it comes to litter and trash. Woodsy the Owl didn't urge Americans to "Give a Hoot -- Don't Pollute!" until the 1970s, which when you really think about it isn't all that long ago.
* Finally, it would be hypocritical not to check myself:
Dear S., kindly fight any impulse to bemoan the absence of libraries or grass. Don't judge patrons at the grocery store when they cut in line, or bump your cart and then act as though nothing happened. Forgive the airport its chaos. Let the cigar and cigarette smoke go. Fight every urge to complain about the heat.