Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Thoughts from Kashmir

I met a man named Saghir today while shopping in his store. Our conversation quickly turned from bartering to world issues, beginning with the partition of India and the bloody fights for Kashmir (where his family is from).

Saghir said that Americans are nice, but very naive. They think people from other countries are scary, dangerous terrorists. They do not travel beyond our borders or realize the repercussions of their lifestyles. Many Americans do not read the newspaper, or better yet think critically about what they read.

Mass media keeps us in a bubble-- isolation through a culture of fear. He held up the New York Times and Washington Post to show that they had the same picture of an Iranian protest on their front pages. This is not a true depiction of life in Iran, he said. While it's important to understand these events, the majority of people in this country are not violent and rioting. They are peaceful and family-oriented; they work hard and like to have fun. Americans never see this side.

Saghir said that people in America point fingers. They say that Middle Eastern women are subjugated because they wear burqas or head scarves. But Pakistan and India have had female leaders, and the United States has not. He said that Americans blindly support Israel and have a polarized view of blame. To Americans, it is the defenders versus the terrorists, while the truth (if it could be called that) is a version of gray.

Before I said goodbye, Saghir reiterated his original point: Americans are nice, but very naive. We shook hands and I continued to ponder this idea as I walked away. I'm already planning my next visit to Saghir, the little man in the dusty store.

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