Saturday, June 10, 2006  

Hi, I was wondering if you could explain to me...

Whenever I go abroad, or teach an American culture class, I get questions like:
Could you please explain how George Bush got elected? (answer: a percentage of the electorate is just plain stupid.)
Why don't you know anything about the rest of the world? (me: you mean Americans or me? answer: Americans. me: How much time do we have?)

It's a bit disconcerting being a stand-in for the Typical American which is why I send my students out to talk to Real Americans (with the caveat that Real Americans come in all colors, shapes and sizes-like teletubbies, now that I think about it). And my students come back in a bit of a shock, sometimes (no one knows where my country is! And this surprises you?)

Which is why I really enjoyed Anar Ali's op-ed piece in the NYT today. Plus her reference to 4-H, which I found amusing because I grew up on a farm (really, I did!) and was part of 4-H in a dillusuatory kind of way-even then, I was not a good record keeper.
After years of hard work (and 30 years in Canada), I finally arrived in a new geography. It wasn't a physical space, although being in Toronto, a city made of many cultures, helps. But it was a cultural and psychological place, one that coalesced my identities into one and gave me a sense of home. I called this place Canadian.

Sept. 11 changed all that. So have subsequent acts of terrorism — or attempted acts of terrorism, like the ones authorities said were planned by the members of Islamic terrorist cells arrested here last week. These events have all, in one way or another, expelled me from my new home. It was dismantled; my Muslim identity was teased out like code from a DNA strand. One piece of code does not tell you the whole story, but it is the only one placed under the microscope for investigation.

This is all you are. Muslim Magnified.

You can read the rest of her excellent piece here.

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