It’s been just about one year since I set off on this adventure of living and working in Morocco. While I’m sure the normal thing to do would be to write a post about all the things that have happened in the past year and reflect on my life and Morocco…. I’m just not in the mood for that right now (I promise pictures and stories coming soon). Instead, I think I’ll chat a little bit about current events and the way we live with each other on this world of ours.
As I read the news today, I see that there have been protests around Northern Africa and the Middle East over a film produced in the United States. Before I go any further I should remind you that “The contents of this website express personal opinions and do not reflect positions of the United States or the Peace Corps”.
I’m not going to make a right or wrong statement about the film (I haven’t seen it). I’m not going to make a right or wrong statement about the reaction in the Muslim world (though I will say I’m a little more sensitive to that reaction in that I currently live in the Muslim world).
What I’ve been thinking the last 15 hours or so is that, as humans, we really must start defining ourselves more by the things that make us similar than those that make us different. This isn’t a new idea, and I’m certainly not the first person to bring this to your attention, but it’s become a much more tangible part of my existence over the past year.
I spend much of my day-to-day life observing all the things that are so very different about living in Morocco. I look at Moroccans and still manage to see them as “others”. Now there are certainly things that I would change about this country; corruption, the education system, and women’s rights to name a few. But when I really look around at the individuals that I meet here in Rich, all I see are people just like you and me. My neighbor across the street tends to hang out by the local hannut (bo-de-ga) and reminds me, each time I see him, of my Uncle Paul (the man exudes kindness and caring). The student that swings by my house to explain his new idea for a car motor that runs off nothing but magnetic power is the Moroccan incarnation of my friend Dave in high school (a young man who would preach of the financial goldmine that could be the carbonated soup market). When I have had the pleasure to eat with a Moroccan mother I am constantly reminded of my friend’s mother Sara (the similarities between Jewish and Muslim mothers do not end with my overly full stomach).
So often in our everyday lives we use the essential (and necessary) tool of grouping people together in order to simplify situations. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard “Suburban Soccer Mom” working in politics I’d be a wealthy man. We group people together because we lack the capacity to take in every individual we see and make a true evaluation. It’s just easier to see a Muslim and check the mental “Muslim” box in your head.
I don’t have a problem with grouping, it’s an important skill to use. But the next time you see that “Muslim”, do your best to see the ways that this “Muslim” is similar to you, not just different. Maybe he’s also a “Teacher” or a “Father”.
Yesterday, a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer that served in Morocco from 1983-1985 was killed. His name was Christopher Stevens and he was the United States Ambassador to Libya. He was killed because some “Muslims” saw him as just another “American” standing behind a film made by some “Jews”.
I hope we “Humans” can do better than that in the future.