Diplomacy

Today, it is being reported that Congress voted to accept the Iran Nuclear Deal.

The insane U.S. media circus and especially election politics, is something I never miss when overseas. When I was at home this summer, I admittedly, like a car crash, couldn’t look away.

Before coming to Kazakhstan, I got to say another little ‘goodbye Dubai’. My hotel, Deira Comfort Inn, was in one of the older neighborhoods of Dubai. More grit and less glitz. It’s brimming with lots of cheap, little, delicious restaurants for Chinese, Indian, Filipino, Korean, Arabic and Pakistani food. My hotel was right by a nice, big shopping mall and conveniently close to the subway.

Despite its less glamorous exterior, the inside of the lobby was all rich, red-brown wood and marble. My room had a royal feel with its red faux velvet curtains and chairs.

There was a boy, about 11 or 12 that I kept seeing in the elevator. He was always polite, using broken English to chat and had a big smile. One morning he asked, “You American?”

“Yes.”

“I am Iran. America like Iran?”

I was dumbfounded on how to respond. The American-Iran deal had been all over the news recently.

The boy had a huge smile as usual and was looking at me inquisitively.

A myriad of thoughts about geopolitics swarmed my head. The relationship status between Iran and American could read “It’s complicated”. Finally, I responded, “I like Iranians”. This is the true and diplomatic thing to say. The elevator stopped at his floor.

“America, I like America. You have a good country”. And with that sentence he was out the door.

This encounter reminded me of other conversations with my Dubai students who want to know why Americans think every Muslim is a terrorist. My students always say that terrorists are not Muslim at all.

Traveling and living overseas, I’m often put on the spot to explain America. Americans living and working overseas serve as unofficial ambassadors.

Personal views aside: Does America the country like the country of Iran? I think it would be dishonest to have answered ‘Yes’. The news keeps saying Iran is untrustworthy and I wonder why the Middle East should have trust in us.

Dubai is incredibly diverse. Alongside people from the Americas, Africa, Europe, the Far East and Southeast Asia, it attracts Arab nationals from the region and has a sizable Iranian population, which is considered Emirati and has been there for over 100 years.

The Middle East is so diverse. I used to picture in my mind a kind of Lawrence of Arabia vast desert, but there are ski resorts, forests and beaches, rivers and dead seas. Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon have large Christian populations that have been there for millenia. Some of my Arab students had these beautiful blond manes and piercing blue eyes. Beautiful, local Emiratis can have mostly African heritage. At the same time that there is this linguistic, cultural, and physical diversity, people are people. The Muslim students and families I met are the same as my family and your family.

We cannot paint the whole region with one brush of fear and mistrust. I am glad I got to live in the Middle East. And no, I did not have to cover up.

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4 thoughts on “Diplomacy

  1. Instead of using a wide paint brush when describing a country, let’s switch for a fine, small brush and paint the individuals who struggle every day ~ regardless of the country.

    Liked by 1 person

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