I am often not proud to be an American. One of my goals for my semester here was to not embody a single American stereotype.
This goal is not easily accomplished. While my recent viewership of Doctor Who has dispelled thoughts held by my English counterparts, I am clearly a Yankee through and through.
Just this morning, while writing this post, I embarrassed myself with an “al-Hamdullah” that may as well come out of the mouth of a three-year-old. Broken Arabic (and non-existant Hebrew) aside, my entire being screams “FOREIGNER.”
My inability to haggle, my completely aloof gaze while I wander the old city, taking pictures like this:
All of these quirks make it quite clear that I am an outsider.
Sometimes the locals respond with a giggle. Other times they scoff at my status as yet “another loose American woman.” Less frequently, taxi drivers and merchants take advantage of my terrible language skills.
At the same time, there is a privilege that accompanies the eagle stamped on the front of my passport, both actualized and assumed. Sometimes this is as small as me responding to Arabic in English with the presumption that I will be (and should be) understood. At least 3 times a week, however, I see American privilege rear a much uglier head.
Every time I pass through the check point on my return from the West Bank, I understand just what it is to be an American. While the Palestinian natives must stand in long lines- often left waiting much longer than necessary for the amusement of the guards- I slide right on through. I have seen my American cohorts sent to the front of the line and processed immediately while other men and women have waited for a significant chunk of time. I have seen many an American set off the metal detector and walk on without the need to look back. I have, myself, been winked at by an Israeli guard after flashing my American passport.
I have no setback. I have no worries. I have no consequences. I am an American. The world is at my fingertips. I am not proud of that.
Unfortunately, this is what it means to be an American:
It means I am free to do whatever the heck I want. It means I have no one dictating what I must do. It means I am given opportunity upon opportunity.
Don’t get me wrong- I love being from the land of the free. I deeply appreciate my country’s desire to be just. I don’t have to live with walls, suffocating laws, or fear.
Yes, I am glad to be American, but I am certainly not proud of it.