One of the most prominent Arab poets, Al-Mutanabbi, said once “Man achieves not all he hopes for, Winds blow contrary to the will of ships.” It seems my Arabic guide series is going slowly. Sorry for those who were exited and encouraged me to write it. Summer session for me is no fun. I am teaching a course and working on my research. But I will try to write whenever I can.
I will skip my second part speaking about the law in the US and talk about what is going on here this weekend.
Next Monday, is a holiday to celebrate the independence day(A.K.A the 4th of July) which is the day USA declared its independence from the Great Britain. “Happy 4th” or “Happy 4th of July” are the common greetings among Americans at the beginning of July.
On the first week of July and on the 4th, two things Americans do that are very noticeable to any newcomer; BBQs during the day and fireworks at night. Almost every city, small or big, celebrates the event by fireworks display.
During my stay here, I noticed that Americans LOVE their country. They are proud of her and take pride in what she became. Therefore, they waste no time or effort in criticizing their country when they feel it is taking a path that is not of the citizens’ full interest. Individuals who criticize the government are considered heroes not people with “a foreign agenda” as they call them in the Middle East. Here, I have never heard the term “foreign agenda”. I even doubt if any Americans know what that means. Take Michael Moore and Glenn Beck for example they both criticize the other party to an extreme level. One called Bush a liar the other called Obama a racist. Yet, for many Americans they are both patriotic who criticize harshly for the sake of the country.
In the spirit of the 4th of July, it is worth mentioning America’s other face. That is, the American peoples not their government or its anarchic foreign policy. America like any other country in the world has its share of bad apples. Unfortunately, like in the Middle East the good at heart people remain nameless. Here are couple of stories that I experienced:
A simple gesture counts
Every mega store, like Wal-Mart for example, has a huge parking lot. At each lane, there is a small space allocated to returned shopping carts for the customer to use instead of going all the way back to the store to return his cart. One day, I was in a hurry, rushing to put the bags in my car. The woman parking besides my car maybe noticed I was in a hurry. When I was done with my cart she was done as well. So, she offered to take my cart along with hers to return both to the carts’ allocated space. And we were both parked a little bit far from that carts space. This small gesture made my day.
One day after many failed attempts to start my car which was parked in front of a coffee shop, a young lady who was enjoying her coffee with friends outside saw me and came to ask if I wanted a battery jump. My car’s problem wasn’t because of a dead battery so I thanked her and explained that the problem was mechanical. Of course, this small gesture might not worth mentioning since it is done all over the world. But for me it was huge because of its timing, it happened only 7 or 8 months after 9/11. I experienced what foreign tourists talk about when they talk about the Arab hospitality. When a young American lady offers to help an Arab looking man only 8 months after the big mess I felt I am welcomed regardless of what happened.
Three years ago, I was this close from being forced to quit my PhD program. I had thousands of dollars of unpaid tuition fees. And because of this big debt, the cashier office put a financial hold on my account which meant I can’t register for classes unless I pay the debt. The big problem was foreigner students who don’t register for classes (12 hours minimum for undergrads and 9 hours for grads) are considered out of status. I was terrified because if it would happen that I am out of status, the FBI will come knocking on my door and deport me in the most humiliated way they could think of (It happened to someone I know, I will talk about it in a different post).
Anyway, when all communications with the cashier office employees failed I scheduled a meeting with the Cashier’s office director. I explained to him my financial situation and the consequences of not registering for the next semester. We had I think more than 30 minutes meeting. I told him I need to register and that I will try to come up with the money but I need time. Fortunately, he let me register. It was a big relief. Even with America’s many tough strict regulations and policies sometimes knowing how to ask is all what you need. I believe in Allah who in His outmost wisdom sent me a non-Muslim American to help me during that tough time.
These are just couple of nice gestures or favors among the tens of nice stories I encountered here. In America, one finds that neither the White House shameless and anarchic foreign policies nor Hollywood immorality and derogatoriness of other nations are the best when it comes to representing the average people. Those who welcome foreigners and share with them their wealth. Those who consider the citizen and the immigrant are equal in front of the law.