Monday, September 6, 2010

This is who we are now?

I was in a pharmacy this afternoon in suburban New Jersey (don't judge - I was visiting good friends and they're worth it) when I had a sobering and sad realization with a very nice employee there. 

The pharmacist who helped me had an unusual name so, after some pleasant conversation and as I am wont to do, I politely asked her the origin.  She quickly replied "My family is from Iraq, but I was born here and I'm a Christian".  I was taken aback and somewhat embarrassed that she felt the need to go into so much detail for such a simple question but after half a second I completely understood:  Anyone with a Muslim sounding name or Arabic appearance  immediately feels like they're on the defensive whenever they are asked about their race, religion or nationality.  I explained to her that people's names and family origins are two of my favorite things to discuss, greatly relieving her angst, but after what happened to the NYC cabbie two weeks ago I can't blame her for the initial reaction.

So is this what the United States has become?  People who were BORN HERE and are just as American as any President we've ever had are immediately defensive whenever their background is discussed?  Folks, that's repulsive. Yes, some lunatics wearing the cloak of Islam killed 3000 of our fellow citizens, but this woman didn't.  The 1billion other Muslims world-wide didn't.  Why should she feel so defensive in the country where she was born and raised?

All I'm saying is THINK before you label people.  You don't know them and the odds are that your label is wrong, making your assumptions hurtful and making you a jackass.  An absurd jackass.

PS: Yes, I suggested she not take a trip to Arizona any time soon.  She laughed and said "I know."  It's a sad state of affairs.