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“Your president’s a jerk, let me buy you a sandwich”

June 6, 2009

This comes from the amazing Tom A. Peter, a Middle East correspondent for GlobalPost. It’s a wonderful reminder of two things: First, that just because Obama says nice things In The Muslim World doesn’t mean all Muslims are going to love America (again, or ever). And that hating a government is not the same as hating its people. (Anyone else raised in a “hate the sin, love the sinner” household?) We’re pretty good at loving the sinner and separating governments we think are bad from their people, whom we tend to feel bad for. We might remember more often that other peoples may be capable of making the very same distinctions about us. (Or, if that takes things too far, we might at least stop asking Muslim members of the U.S. Congress to prove that they’re not working for “our enemies.”)

You can also read Tom’s post at the GlobalPost:

In my blog entry yesterday about residents in Marka, Jordan, watching Obama’s speech to the Muslim world, I mentioned several people who saw Obama on TV and reflexively cursed at the screen. Logic might hold that these same people would not be happy to see an American at that moment, but that was far from the case.

At first some eyed me suspiciously, but when I introduced myself, not hiding the fact that I’m an American, and every single person who cursed at the TV offered to buy me lunch and seemed genuinely disappointed when I declined because I had to work. I gave a few of them my business card and one guy who seemed to have the most vitriolic hatred of Obama/the American government called me this afternoon to invite me to lunch with his family.

The experience is an excellent example of how most people here draw a bold line between the American government and the American people. I’ve worked with many people in the Middle East who strongly oppose the U.S. government, but it’s generally an oddity to find someone who transfers that mistrust to me as an American citizen. It’s also safe to say that many of these same people who hate the U.S. government would be eager for the opportunity to travel to the U.S. and certainly to hang out with an American.

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