Guest Writer Alex DeJong gets some stuff off his chest….
Proud to be Canadian
This past month in Spain has been a tumultuous one to say the least; from the bombing in Madrid to the election of a left-wing president. In the wake of it all, two hundred people are dead (the death toll ranges from 189 to 201), Zapatero has promised to withdraw the Spanish troops from Iraq, and Spain must now worry about a new enemy, Al-Qaeda; a group that has made it specifically clear that the 11th of March was due to Spain’s alliance with the United States and their invasion of Iraq. Being an American amidst it all has been quiet interesting.
I heard about the bombing on the news and immediately thought that ETA was responsible (due to the recent prior attempts to attack Madrid’s rail lines). Like many Spaniards, I was searching for blame to direct my emotions of hate, sadness, and helplessness. But as the evidence piled on Al-Qaeda’s side, a new sense of fear had came upon me.
In a sense I think people wanted it to be ETA (especially Aznar). Spain has been dealing with ETA for nearly fifty years making it a bit more “predictable” compared with Al-Qaeda. Now Spain has a new enemy, one that is more fanatical and infamous than the former. A sensation of being attacked on all sides came upon me.
Before March 11th, being an American has kept me busy as I am requested to explain myself and excuse the fact that my leader couldn’t manage a flee circus if he tried. Some of the questions thrown at me range from, “Do all Americans have guns?”, to “What’s it like living under “that” regime?”. These questions aren’t just political either.
I’ve been asked “how is it living where everything is censored” due to the surprise display of Janet Jackson’s star crowned nipple. I have edited my response to these questions with, “Yes, we are all a bunch of gun toting, paranoid, sex-starved, narrow minded, extreme right wing pions living under our all mighty dictator, George Bush”. This answer has proven to save many an hour trying to defend myself.
And that’s just the thing, I am defending myself in reference to a question about my president. People don’t see me just as an American, they see me as another George Bush along with his whole agenda. I might as well be wearing a mask of Bush while eating a Big Mac and re-loading my M-16 simultaneously. And even if I manage to persuade someone that all Americans are not like this, I get the quick response, “well, you’re not a typical American”.
Three years ago I was at a water pipe café in Istanbul with another American. We were passing the time with the locals smoking our apple flavoured tobacco and playing backgammon. Feeling embarrassed about our slow thought process for a game that’s meant to be played quickly, we decided to flip the board over for a quick game of checkers. Our neighbors (two middle aged Turkish men), having noticed, pointed at the game and asked in a mixture of Turkish and English what exactly we were playing.
After several minutes of mostly hand gestures to explain the game, I had taught my first Turk how to play checkers. We had a good laugh on his attempt to pronounce the word “checkers”. While shaking hands he asked where I was from. My usual response was to say “I’m Canadian, eh”. But this time I told him the truth only to have him shake my hand more aggressively and smile. We introduced our friends and went back to smoking and playing our respective board games.
I didn’t notice it but our waiter had witnessed the whole discussion. He brought a waiter who spoke English in order ask me again if I was American. Hesitantly I told him yes. He looked me up and down and told me that his friends had always spoken poorly towards Americans, but after meeting my friend and I, he thought differently.
A man named Ayman al Zawahiri, the second most wanted man in Al-Qaeda recently sent a message to the Pakistan army telling them that the U.S. doesn’t want Pakistan to become a powerful country because it’s Muslim. This message was a response to Pakistan’s recent efforts to hunt and capture Osama Bin Laden. Where does this statement come from and why am I considered to be this way? Of course I am not this naïve.
I know where this image comes from. It comes from the extremes of capitalism that’s dominated by a small elite group of people who run the behemoth exploitive corporations over-seas. It comes from our Mc Donald’s and MTV’s and George Bush’s who represent someone who I’m not. I hope to contribute to changing my image and I look forward to the day when I can hold my head up high and be proud to say where I’m from.