Tuesday, May 3, 2011

When It's Hard to be an American

“‘Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked?’
declares the Sovereign LORD.
‘Rather, am I not pleased
when they turn from their ways and live?’”
Ezekiel 18:23

From growing up in America, I feel like most people are generally taught to avoid discussions on politics & religion. But I’ve embarked on a journey that’s lead me to today, to a land where the two are [almost] one. And right now, in my everyday life, it seems that I’m really only identified by my gender and these two things, anyways. So how can I avoid this? I can’t. I am forced to engage in it and navigate these fields, and therefore so are you.

Some historical and monumental things have taken place and are continuing to transpire,
and living in the region of the world that I do,
I am tiptoe-ing around,
waiting for THE response,
watching for THE reaction and
living in a state of anxiety about what “my” government is going to do.
After contemplating the idea of deleting all my [rude] American Facebook friends [save those living here with me] due to their ridiculously arrogant, insensitive & idiotic comments and reactions, I remembered that, “Oh yeah, I’m from America.”

Sometimes I just dislike Americans.
Until I remember that I am one.
And that’s hard.

I was most recently reminded of this while traveling in the desert.
As a wannabe resident alien, my skin crawls when I see… tourists.
My friends’ and my jaws ached after three days in the desert,
overwhelmed by the sheer size of backpacks,
the loud voices [with really unintelligent comments],
the serious lack of bargaining skills,
and the abundance of… skin, particularly… cleavage.
[I’m still recovering.]

And then I remember that what I see [and despise] in these tourists is much like how I’m seen by random locals. I’m associated with, no—totally identified by media and these tourist experiences. Sexually, politically, religiously, intellectually—everything.

And some days it’s harder than others.

Today [and the coming days, I’m sure] are going to be hard.
In terms of perception, safety, understanding, anxiety, mobility… it’s going to be hard.

And the thing I most struggle with is that I don’t know exactly how I’m perceived when I step out of my house. I’m ultimately at the mercy of God, I know that full well. But I also live in an awareness that I am also, to some degree, at the mercy of those around me. Where I live, someone can be mad at the West & just pick me. I don’t think this will happen because, in my host-country’s defense, they have an amazing track record of treating foreigners well. But I’ve been harshly accosted before because I’m so painstakingly and obviously American. [I think he felt better, though. And I didn’t understand most of it. I like being a part of therapeutic events.]

Quite regularly, I seek counsel on
how to appropriately and intentionally respond
to world and local events.

Today, I was in one of my over-feeding Arab homes and the kids wrapped me up, making the scarf I was wearing a hijab, a head covering [see video in sidebar]. It was all fun and games until one of the little boys, seven years-old, came to me as I was leaving. After he jumped on me and covered me in his shy, yet aggressive kisses, he implored me to wear my scarf as a hijab, even unwrapping my scarf to start the process.

“Friend! I’m not going to go outside with a hijab on,” I told him as I laughed.

“Yes. Yes, Miss Sarah, you must,” was his response.

“No, my friend, I mustn’t. I follow [JC] and the only people in this city who wear hijabs are women who follow Islam.”

At this point he started throwing a fit and going off at me in Arabic. Something about me being “shagra” [blonde] and “from America.” His mom stepped in and tried to calm him down.Ultimately it came down to the point that he was worried about me going outside without a hijab on—that something bad was going to happen to me because “that man on the TV died.”

In the end, I left without a hijab, but carried with me some heavy, mixed emotions.
I was delighted at his love and his desire to protect me.
I was alarmed at his level of understanding and application.
And… I was just creeped out by the potential reality of his concerns.

I don’t want to be suspicious, or scared, or on edge.
I like having a healthy level of trust and interaction with the people around me.

And so, I’m just waiting.
Asking for opportunities to be filled with grace and wisdom,
that my words and actions would be seasoned with salt and humility,
making the most of my time here, making the most of this time.

This time when it’s just hard to be an American.


  1. Thank you for your honesty and your post. I've been thinking of those like you in the part of the world watching all those images. Even some who may not have been so attached to the deceased could still grow angry at watching them, I imagine. Take good care.


  2. Thank you for sharing. (And I love the video!) Many of the responses on FB have also frustrated me and left me feeling sick. I have been in prayer for those living in that part of the world right now. May you receive His protection and care.

  3. Great post once again. Yes, sometimes it's downright embarrassing to be an American. I'm lifting you up, for your safety, and for the protection of all our other WOTH sisters in countries like yours.

  4. Thank you for taking a stand as a Christian! We live in a country near you and western Christian ladies have worn the hijab here and people have always assumed they were Muslim.
    I was also fighting fear when I realized we are one of those soft targets at risk after that man died. I had to remember that the safest place to be is in God's will.

  5. Thanks, ladies. All's well for right now--just heightened/alerted living... as usual? ha. But He's my light & my salv. Whom shall I fear? I keep stepping out of the house for Love & for Life. Recently, I've been met with a lot of singing from the young guys... will post more on that later.
    --Sarah with the Yellow Dress.


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