AMERICAN IN ARABIA: Pork Patches, U.S. Troops and Culture Insensitivities
In light of reports that U.S. troops are battling stigma by emulating, Brett discusses the negative effects of culture fatigue on his follow countrymen in arms. A little compassion and understanding may go a long way.
It looks like some of the foreign troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are throwing in the towel when it comes to engaging with the locals. In some parts of these countries, citizens perceive the troops as analogous to the Christian Crusaders of the 12th century for various reasons. Though none of the soldiers are sent there to do anything related to religion, they are fed up with the label and are now embracing it.
We know this because one of the top sellers of merchandise to active military is now a patch with a cartoon crusader digging into some succulent pork. And just in case the picture is not clear enough, they have written, in both English and Arabic, “Pork Eating Crusaders” on the bottom. Somehow, I think this sarcasm might get lost on the Taliban.
Fellas, fellas, fellas. Please don’t give up just yet! I know you’re in a crappy situation i.e. being in a place where you feel you've come to help but most of the people don’t want you there. It’s kind of like when I go to the mall and give free back rubs to unsuspecting strangers. Talk about lack of appreciation--- I’m just trying to spread some cheer!
In fact, I’m willing to bet most of you don’t want to be there either. Take, for example, this entangled mess called Operation Freedom in Afghanistan. This exhausting scenario with Taliban leaders, clueless politicians and billions squandered is like the hacked up hairballs from the thirty cats at my dumpster. The goal is to help the government hand over rule to the people and you’re saying to yourselves, “These people? Give me a break, literally.”
Some of you are barely hanging on for your second, or fourth term. Part of what you’re feeling is cultural fatigue. The University of Dayton defines this as ‘a feeling of disorientation that may occur when a person leaves familiar places’.
You’re probably fed up with kissing bearded men on the cheek, doing everything with your right hand, hearing old women whisper ‘Ya Haraam’ when you walk by and watching soccer ALL the time. Couple that with wanting to stay alive, I’m sure you are pooped.
Dayton suggests one of the best ways to fight fatigue is to concentrate on the positive things around you. In other words, engage without the rage. This is going to be difficult when you walk around wearing a tag that might as well have a hand giving the middle finger, dripping in bacon fat to most Muslims.
After living in culture shock in the Middle East for four years, my solution is to accept the fact that most of their suffering is much worse than mine. Life for many in these war zones has grown weary. The angel of death has sewn his patch on the hearts of millions. It’s a badge of pain, shame and mockery, decorated with these four big letters on it: LOSS
It’s as if the bath plug was pulled and the dreams and hopes of a whole generation are rushing down the drain: Homes, education, lands, innocence, a Friday picnic, a dance with Daddy--- all flushed away. Our minds can’t fathom the power and stretch these dark demonic wings have over these “Holy Lands”. And since this has been draining on for a long time, Afghanis and Iraqis are worn-out. Their culture itself is fatigue.
And you’re tired of being perceived as a Bacon-eating Barbarian? Fellas, push through your fatigue and enter into the Afghani's or Iraqi's pain. Many of you have lost buddies in the war. They’ve lost theirs too, along with brothers and children.
And finally, ditch the patch. You might think it’s cute and somehow cathartic but it just does not energize anything but more hate and resentment. Let us empathize rather than antagonize.
But you know what does relieve a tired soul? Come here and I’ll give you one of my famous back rubs. Hey, where you going?
By Brett Weer
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Bawaba's editorial policy.