Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Remembrance and Family Heritage in Bicultural Saudi/non-Saudi Families

By Chiara


This past week has been one of Remembrance, not least because of Remembrance Day/ Veterans’ Day on November the 11th. It made me think about the role of history, collective memory, and family heritage in shaping world view, and an individual’s perception of current events.


In Saudi Arabian history, the Ottoman-Saudi War between Egypt under the Ottomans and the First Saudi State (1811-1818), which included the Al-Saud as well as the primary Al-Wahhab tribe, is significant, but somewhat better known in the West is The Great Arab Revolt. A part of WWI, it is more important to Saudi than other fronts of “The Great War”, particularly as the Sultanate of Nejd, the Hashemites under the Sherif of Makkah, Hussein bin Ali, and irregular, mainly Bedouin, troops under Prince Faisal and TE Lawrence joined with regular Arab and British forces to defeat the Ottomans. The Middle Eastern Theatre of the War, and the Arabia and Southern Arabia Campaigns are addressed little in the West but helped draw contemporary maps and conflicts. Battles were fought in major centres of what is now Saudi Arabia starting from Makkah, then Jeddah, Madinah, Taif, Al Lith, Yanbu, Aqaba, Wadi Musa, and Damascus, a major Ottoman stronghold.


The Saudi-Yemeni War of 1934 establishing Al-Saud control over disputed territories probably has greater significance in Saudi than in the West despite a write-up in Time Magazine on May 14, 1934 ARABIA: Fall of Yemen. Border disputes and questionable allegiances are again present in the most recent Saudi-Yemen conflict.

WWII, in which Saudi stayed neutral until declaring war against the Axis in March 1945, may not be as important in Saudi collective memory as later wars of independence across MENA, which are largely in the background of Western consciousness--except perhaps for the Six-Day War of June 5-10, 1967 to which Saudi contributed troops, and where they suffered losses.


However, the Middle Eastern Campaigns of WWII determined much about what was being configured around Saudi Arabia, in Iraq, the Levant, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, and Aden. The end of the war, when Saudi sided with the US, led almost directly over the next very few years to the Suez Canal Crisis of 1956.


I grew up with the idea of Canada’s heroism in WWI (Vimy Ridge) and WWII (Dieppe), the cannon fodder theory (Canadian troops in front, UK and US behind), and a nation of peace keepers:  Lester Bowles Pearson, then a Canadian Diplomat, later Prime Minister, originally suggested the idea of a UN peace keeping force to maintain the tentative peace among Great Britain, France, Israel, and Egypt during the Suez Crisis of 1956, and won the 1957 Nobel Peace Prize for it.

Largely unmentioned were Canada’s role in the 19th Century Boer War, and in the 20th Century Korean War; and, the Vietnam War happened to someone else. However, there were Canadian vets of the other  wars of the 20th Century, including individuals who served in Vietnam with US forces. Trust me; there is nothing that strikes fear in the heart of an ER physician or psychiatrist like “Vietnam vet…on something…maybe PCP (Angel Dust)”.


The European theatre, rather than Pacific or North African one, during WWI and WWII, was the prime subject of study and commemoration. For WWI the French Front was in the history texts, not the others; including the Italian one, which I learned more of only recently, even though it had a major impact on my family’s personal history. Discovering that the front line wavered back and forth through my paternal grandfather’s home region of Italy, through his home town, his college town, and the main railway town, gave greater prescience to my great-grandmother’s urging him to leave the country as there was about to be a war. She, of course, meant to move temporarily to Ticino, the Italian region of Switzerland, whereas he left for Montreal and never returned.


The disastrous Battle of Caporetto, on the Italian Front in WWI, is what gave rise to the myth of Italian cowardice in battle, a myth that would serve WWII propagandists well. Squandered by an Italian General’s ineptitude, and mowed down by superior Austrian and German forces, many of the Italians who weren’t among the 11,000 killed, 20,000 wounded, and 265,000 taken prisoner, deserted.


Ernest Hemingway was there, and captured the aftermath of the battle in his novel, A Farewell to Arms.


Only recently, when curious about whether literary scholarship in Post-Colonialism extended to Italian literature, did I discover Italian colonialism in a more graphic way; and, on meeting Libyan students, in a more personal way. The myth of Italian cowardice in fighting doesn’t resonate with them—far from it. They know, and have family recall of the colonial wars when 20-50% of the Libyan population died, most in forced marches through the desert and prison camps, and Omar Mukhtar’s “trial”.


It wasn’t until I lived in Hong Kong that I learned of the Canadian presence in the Pacific theatre and the Battle of Hong Kong. More cannon fodder theory too! The small British garrison had recently received reinforcements. Along with the Indians and the Scots, the Canadian troops were newly arrived, with no battle experience, and had been sent only in the hope that the Japanese could be slowed, not stopped, for at least 3 weeks.


The Japanese overran the Gin Drinker’s Line in 3 days, and the Allied troops began retreating onto Hong Kong Island, over 2 more days, with the Rajput Battalion fighting the rearguard action, until on the 5th day the colony fell.

Canada is currently reshaping our history teaching, to the public at large, to aspiring citizens, and to public school students. On this account, we are more active combatants than peace keepers. This is evident in the news, on the streets, and in Remembrance Day ceremonies. In a conversation about Remembrance Day with an older friend, the daughter of an elderly WWII vet, we initially wandered through the politicization of this year’s memorial services. We discussed how the 60th anniversary of the ending of WWII saw scandalously little official recognition, whereas the one this week was filled with pomp and official circumstance.



Even our next head of state, Crown Prince Charles, and our future Princess morganatic, Duchess Camilla, attended in appropriate regalia.


Prince Charles, Lieutenant-General of the Canadian Forces, wore his full dress Canadian military uniform, as did our Commander-in-Chief, Queen Elizabeth II’s representative as head of state, Governor General Michaëlle Jean, a Haitian-French-Quebecker-Canadian, married to a Frenchman, wear hers. Their daughter, Marie-Éden, an adopted Haitian girl, was not present.



While my friend and I agreed that it is all political, she is incensed on behalf of her father, and I think the Conservative government is pandering to the Canadian Right, and ginning up militarily to keep combat troops in Afghanistan or where ever else Obama wants us. Even McGill Students honoured Remembrance Day with Afghanistan in mind.

We then moved on to Major Hasan, whose victims were also remembered this week. In the blogosphere John Burgess of Crossroads Arabia has an excellent series of posts and comments documenting the events and the international press response, the most recent in the series being “Two more Approaches to Major Hasan”; and Jehanzeb of Muslim Reverie has written on the events from the perspective of the implications for Muslim Americans, in “No One Hijacked Islam”.


On this topic my friend and I departed intellectual company rather dramatically—or at least as dramatically as 2 professional women in a café can manage. She is too polite and cautious to say Islamic jihad or 5th column but it was there in the undertones of her impression of the events at Fort Hood. She then asked, my impression “shrink to shrink”.

Having asked the question, she didn’t like the answer: that a highly ethical officer was put in an untenable ethical conflict of values, was not allowed an honourable way out, and faced with imminent deployment, had a psychotic break—no previous psychiatric history necessary, no prior terrorist intent evident.


She also didn’t like my proofs: the army promoting him recently; his academic presentation calling for conscientious objector status for Muslim Americans; his research on extremists in the interest of improving care for American Muslims in the US military, and his attempts to resolve his conflict of conscience through ethical channels—remaining stateside, or leave the military and pay back whatever monies were owed for his education.

My medical, academic, and Abrahamic cultures clashed with her corporate, military, and Christian ones. By the time we got to a thorough discussion of conscientious objector status we were right back to which immigrants were allowed to serve in WWI and WWII in which theatres, and our respective Italian Canadian, and German Canadian family heritages.


My Moroccan husband grew up learning of Morocco’s place in international history.During WWI Morocco was a newly created French Protectorate, having lost the war against colonization in 1912. Some Moroccans served in the Troupes Coloniales, Armée d’Afrique in WWI, under French officers of course.


and again in WWII:

Régiment d'infanterie-chars de marine, a Moroccan regiment, and the most decorated of the war

We have both met enough Moroccan veterans of the French military to know how collective political and social issues have impacted their individual lives in terms of stigma, envy, and (lack of) military pensions or recognition.

Similar issues run more stormily through French-Algerian history, and play out in French politics to this day, with the extreme right Front National being openly racist and xenophobic. Its founding president, Jean Marie Le Pen, spent his military service torturing Algerians, and now, when not politicking against all non-Gallic non-Roman Catholic inhabitants of France, taunts various French icons who also are neither Gallic nor Roman Catholic. Singer Patrick Bruel was one, with Le Pen insisting on mocking his original Sephardic name, Benguigui.

Le Pen also forced 3 time FIFA World Player of the Year, Zinedane Zidane (Zizou), out of his apolitical stance to defend his father against false charges by LePen and his surrogate that Zidane was a “fils de l’Algérie française”, implying either a non-Frenchman or a traitor to Algeria, and that his father was a harki, that is, served with the French Forces against Algerians in Algeria, during the war of decolonization--a charge that still carries very negative connotations. Faced with death threats before the 2001 France-Algeria match, Zidane finally broke his silence on his personal life, and issued a statement identifying his father as a proud Algerian from the Kabyle, and denying that he was ever a harki.


Le Pen, was further unhappy that the face of the championship French National Soccer team, whom so many fêted, bore the features of French colonialism.


Similarly, my husband’s family history is more marked by colonization and decolonization. Older family members have a perfect “Bonjour, comment-allez vous?” even if no other French. Those who were schooled by the French during the time of the Protectorate lack high level standard Arabic linguistic and literary skills. Some used their French education to work for the French by day and against the French by night, as members of the Moroccan underground. Hmmm, “terrorists” in my midst?

Although he was born post-Independence, his generation still bear the sequelae of “colonization syndrome”, sensitivity to racism, to discrimination, and to implications (intended or not) of cultural inferiority. Early in our relationship I once used the word “civilization” (referencing tomato chopping styles) humorously and got a negative reaction, as it is/was one of the buzzwords of French Colonialism. Over the course of our relationship, other differences of cultural interpretation or heritage have resulted in other occasional infelicities of word choice. While we are generally diplomatic, understanding, and appreciate each other’s intent, a very few other in-laws have chosen not to be so generous.

Saudi-American, like other Arab/non-Arab or Muslim/non-Muslim, couples have perhaps faced some of their greatest challenges post-9/11, an event which has altered international relationships, resulted in global traveling challenges for all, and greatly impacted the general view of Muslims, Arabs, and perhaps Saudis in particular, given the nationalities of the hijackers and the origins of the instigators. Though Saudis themselves reject this action, both officially and personally, border guards, airport officers, and some non-Saudis are less understanding.

9/11 is now part of the international historical fabric for all, with each of us bringing a cultural/religious and perhaps family heritage to our understanding. If there is one thing currently certain about the Major Hasan shooting at Fort Hood, it is that cultural tensions underpinned it, and colour the reactions to it.


Closer to home:

What differences of cultural and family history have impacted your relationships?
How do you resolve these?
If you are a Saudi abroad, what impact has your understanding of world history/current events had on your relationship with the nationals where you are?
What are your children learning in school that is similar to or different than their family heritage(s)?
How does the teaching of history evolve in the countries you are familiar with, including Saudi, and what impact does that teaching have on the world view of the citizenry?
Any other comments, thoughts, experiences?

10 comments:

Chiara said...

John Burgess said...
Nice essay!

One factual correction:

Saudi Arabia actually did join with the Allies, but very, very late in the game, in March, 1945. Still, that was earlier than the USSR decided to fight against Japan...

On the Canadian military:

I'll defer to your expertise on Canadian politics, but wonder if, perhaps, the current government sees that the world is not a nice, gentle place, fit for bunny rabbits. Thus, some sort of real military is required.

It could be, too, that Canada is starting to believe that it should not rely on the US--for whatever reason--to do the heavy lifting in all things military.

Peace keeping forces are certainly needed, but so too are peace making forces.
November 16, 2009 4:31 AM

Chiara said...

HishMaj said...
That was ONE good read, first thing in the morning.

You managed to educate me, a person that was totally ignorant of many of the facts(re: Saudi) mentioned.
November 16, 2009 9:43 AM

Chiara said...

John--thanks for your excellent comment. The information about Saudi joining the Allies was in there but rather buried, so thanks to your comment I made it more explicit. I also made it clearer, on Tara's recommendation, that the Egypt-Wahhabi War was with the allied Al-Saud and Al-Wahhab tribes. Got a couple of typos on the way too! LOL :)

Hmmm...now, waving flag and pouring maple syrup (making it hard to type), most often Canada is in if England or the US is, and generally punches above its weight in a war. One notable exception is Vietnam--LBJ lifted Pearson up physically and angrily by the lapels for that one, and of course Trudeau was soundly reviled for his stance, including turning a blind eye to draft dodgers and deserters both, who have shifted Canadian politics to the Left, and were among my professors, and now senior colleagues. The other noteable exception is Iraq, which Chretien refused to joinm citing the lack of a UN mandate unlike Afghanistan which we have been in since the beginning, thanks to Chretien.

Stephen Harper and friends, then in opposition, paid for a full page ad in a major US paper to apologize, and say that they wished Canada were in it--treason in some other countries but then we pay our seditionists to serve in Parliament, including housing Lucien Bouchard in the official residence of her Majesty's Right Honourable Leader of Opposition.

Canada doesn't have sufficient enemies to need much defending internationally, although we have featured in OBL tapes because of our involvement in Afghanistan. On the other hand, as Ann Coulter said, rather bluntly, we are a country that exists because the US allows us to. For Iraq Bush punished us with diplomatic slights, and economic manipulations.

Although Gates gives nice speeches thanking the allied troops in Afghanistan, he tends to forget Canada which has had combat troops in Khandahar (no soft touch) for years. When the war first started, my sister was talking to a friend who started crying about it, and my sister said "Are you worried about your son?" She said yes, and it seemed rather touchingly overprotective at the time, since he was only 9 then. Now he is 15 and will by 18 by the time we pull out combat troops. Not so far fetched, now, even though we have no conscription (conscription AKA draft only during WWI and WWII, but we have a conscription "crisis" every time).

We have had trouble getting recruits, and equipment though, rather like the US.

That is without counting the peace keeping forces in the Suez, Cyprus, the Balkans, Somalia, Rwanda, Latin America, etc.

I agree that peace keeping can only occur where peace making has happened with or without force. I was in the Hague when there were initial attempts to find peace in the Balkans--no desire on the part of the populace to stop fighting whatsoever. Aside from their centenary sectarian fights, they finally had a chance sans Tito to have a go at each other.

As for me, I am strictly a CBC "Battle of the Blades" fan, although a colleague has been serving as a battlefield psychiatrist in Khandahar and advocating that role for other Canadian psychiatrists in the news.

Thanks again for your excellent (and inspiring! LOL :) ) comment.

HishMaj--thank you for your kind words, here is an interesting article, you might enjoy:

Saudi Arabia World War II and Its Aftermath
http://www.photius.com/countries/saudi_arabia/national_security/saudi_arabia_national_security_world_war_ii_and_its~1440.html

Nice blog and blog concept (the pairing of you and your blogging sister) btw.

I hope you will comment on other posts, old and new.
November 16, 2009 10:46 PM

Chiara said...

I sat in on a PTSD group therapy session for Vietnam Vets at the VA hospital in Palo Alto (part of the Stanford University Psychiatry Department). What was particularly interesting was that the group was deliberately formed from drafted soldiers, noncom officers, officers, and career military. Some didn't show symptoms until after they retired from a 40 year career in the military. So many suffer and their symptoms go unrecognized.

When I think of Major Hasan all I can think about is what a wasteful way to deal with an officer, and one's troops. I hope the policy revisions following on this include recognition of the army's role in not heeding someone with such previously high standing trying to find an honourable solution, to an ethical conflict that didn't have to end this way.

I hope others will comment as well on their own experiences within their bicultural commmunities of what it is like to have different knowledge and interpretations of historical events.

We know a Moroccan-American couple who split up, in part because of the strain of the Gulf War of 1991. He found it very difficult to be living in the US with all the pride in fighting Arab Muslims, and the yellow ribbons, etc. He started saying he wanted to move to an Arab Muslim country, and was even less willing to have children and raise them in the US (having children was the core conflict in their relationship). She was a very nice American from small town Oklahoma, and not well travelled ie no travel outside the US. His thinking they could move to the UAE was distressing to her, and feeling that he wouldn't have or raise kids in the US was worse. They saw the events of the war quite differently, as she saw it as protecting US oil access, and he saw it as Arab/Muslim on Arab/Muslim. Needless to say they also experienced newscasts and yellow ribbons differently. They divorced and he married an American with whom he lives in Morocco and with whom he has 2 children. They moved to Morocco when they decided to have a family. They are in business together there, and seem to have a happy life.
November 17, 2009 8:45 PM

Chiara said...

Susanne said...
I tried leaving a comment a few days ago on another post, but the computer jinn prevented me. Today they are behaving, thankfully.

I enjoyed this history lesson especially from a Canadian with an Arab husband. Can you explain why your husband thought "civilization" was a colonialism buzzword? Is it because the French thought they would civilize these backwards Arabs or some such nonsense?

I enjoyed all the pictures. The flower ones are soooo beautiful. People are, too, of course! :)
November 19, 2009 10:57 PM

Chiara said...

Abu Abdullah said...
Chiara, thank you for this enlightening article. Yes War is a dirty thing but is a necessary evil in today's world. Before discussing Maj. Hasan one must understand that when one puts on the uniform you follow the orders blindly, that's how an Army can stay as a cohesive fighting unit. "Conscientious objectors" have been recognized by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (http://www.unhchr.ch/Huridocda/Huridoca.nsf/0/5bc5759a53f36ab380256671004b643a?Opendocument), but the army is not obligated to provide for the conscientious objectors.

In fact there have been cases of Conscientious objectors before who took up their cases intelligently unlike Hasan. Mohammad Ali was conscientious objector who was arrested and found guilty of draft evasion, stripped of his boxing title and his license was suspended. Hasan could have taken recourse as many other soldiers did as Consentious Objectors to the Iraq War (http://ipsnews.net/interna.asp?idnews=17584). But what happened is he snapped and did not think straight and ended his situation this way. For all the media hype that this case received, none of these anchors and experts seem to have an iota of knowledge as to how the military works. Even a cadet who had just been in the military for 2 weeks would know better.

One more fact that military commanders must understand is that mutiny/ desertion/ treason are as old as War itself. As an Indian i can myself cite multiple cases of mutiny in the British Indian Army and post-independence Indian Army itself. The Indian Army mutiny in 1857 against the British Officers, was also ignited because of the British Officers lack of sensitivity to Religious sentiments of both Hindus and Muslim enlists (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Rebellion_of_1857) Then again back to World War II many Indian PoWs who were imprisoned by the Germans and Japanese in the European and Singapore theatre respectively turned against the British and formed Indische Legion under the Germans, and Indian National Army under the Japanese to fight the British(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indische_Legion ; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_National_Army) Also. after WW2 in 1946 Indian Sailors again did a mutiny with over 78 ships, 20 shore establishments and 20,000 sailors. (refer http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Indian_Navy_Mutiny) because of ill treatment by British Officers. Post Indian Independence we again had insurrections and large scale desertions by the Sikh Soldiers in the Indian Army, because the Indian leadership were insensitive to the religious sentiments of the Sikhs, and launched a military assault against the Sikh's holiest site - The Golden Temple. Over 10000 Soldiers deserted and joined the rebellion shedding their uniforms, and the remaining units were almost put on surveillance by the non-Sikh soldiers. Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her two Sikh body guards because of the same incident. Also some of the ex-army/air force personnel who were Tamils aided the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Sri Lanka, a known Terrorist group.

…to be cont’d…
November 20, 2009 1:07 AM

Chiara said...

Abu Abdullah said...
…cont’d…
Now coming back, any right wing dumb head if he/she had read the above history would go about bashing the Indians/ Sikhs/ Tamils. But the fact is India and Indians were much more intellectual in dealing with the issue. In spite of all this turbulent past the Armed Forces is now made up of different ethnicities, and religions. Sensitivities of every Religious group in the Indian Armed forces are effectively addressed, though yes there may be aberrations here and there. In fact many would be surprised to know that we still have many Sikh soldiers, serving in many battalions who have fought and died, also many Muslims too. And may be the Right wing media in US must take note that Muslims have also won the highest gallantry awards in the Indian Army (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abdul_Hamid_(soldier) ) that too against Pakistan.

Now may be the Americans and the West in general need to go back and think why are they facing this trouble when Indians don't? When I read the case about Maj. Hasan, I just said to myself "yet another case of fragging". But when i read the media, i was like "Are they serious?" No doubt the media needs to learn how to report and unite, rather than making a situation bad to worse. Of course when you have Muslim WW2 Veterans’ graves in France vandalized because of Islamophobia and some freaks calling for delisting Muslims from the US Armed forces, may be the situation is not really right for Muslims to serve in the armed forces? or is it?
November 20, 2009 1:09 AM

Chiara said...

Addendum to my comment above:
Our Moroccan friend married another Christian, blond, artsy American, but the second one was an Army brat, well traveled in the world, and more comfortable in other cultures. Also he was more mature and probably married when he was ready to have children, or discussed timing of children before deciding to marry again, since that was the core issue in his first marital difficulties.

I also think the first wife had trouble with inlaws that the 2nd one didn't, eg. his sister was very close to him and unwelcoming (to say the least) of another woman in his life. His brother was living illegally in the same city in the US and was a "burden" while they were both students. She wasn't used to showing "Arab-style" hospitality when her parents-in-law visited, and isn't that comfortable in French let alone Moroccan.

I do think people underestimate the impact of sibling inlaws on marital relationships, as I have tried to address as part of the newer post on Royal Saudi/non-Saudi Marriages with Royals and prominent social families in other MENA countries.

Most people are well-versed in the power of the MIL, and expect the FIL to control the family, but can be blindsided by a BIL or SIL, or CIL (cousin-in-law). The friend's first wife was the most distressed by his sister's visit, and attitudes--and the sister was married and living in Germany, so not really as culturally naive to the West as some others might be. She found the sister generally disapproving, holding her to impossible standards of hospitality that she wasn't even aware of (including imo a few invented ones, trading on her lack of familiarity with Moroccan culture), and seeming to advocate that her brother could do better or would be happier not married.

The second wife also married a man finished his studies, and established in his career--ie in some ways a different person.
November 21, 2009 1:10 AM

Chiara said...

Susanne--glad the commenting jinn is behaving for you! I missed your comments. I'm glad you liked the pics, flowers and people!

The French didn't bother trying to civilize their colonized so much as just assume they were inferior. They did provide French style public education in their colonies, with the same curriculum, textbooks, and scholarships to universities in France. The standard joke is a classroom of Senegalese, Moroccans, Algerians, Tunisian, Malians, or Martiniquais, etc. diligently reading aloud in class in unison "Nos ancêtres les Gaulois..." ("Our ancesters the Gauls...") which was the opening of the standard history textbook for "their" history. Except it was only a joke for the students, and otherwise fills pages of essays on the colonization process.

So the "civilization" to be learned about, and to imitate for academic and career success was French. As a result, many famous literary writers from the French colonies wrote primarily in French, Oyono, Senghor, Césaire,etc. Many sociologists, philosophers, and professionals, did the same eg, Frantz Fanon, and Albert Memmi who along with the literary writers mentioned previously led the movement for decolonization.

The full story of the "civilized" tomato chopping, involve a team cooking effort as students--myself, then bf and our best friend. They were supposed to chop tomatoes while I prepared something else, and when it seemed to me tomato chopping time should be over, I turned back to them, and saw both of them still at it. What I thought would be a "cut the already washed tomatoes into eighths", ie "chop tomatoes" North American style, turned into peeling, seeding and fine dicing, ie "chop tomatoes" Moroccan style. I thought my own mistake was hilarious as was their very serious efforts, and so I said, "oh, that is so civilized". Oops! Got a blast of Marxist-Leninist post-colonial theory from the friend, who held back to about 30% of his normal version of a blast, because he knew me so well, and knew I could recite it with him. But I had caught him off guard and his response was reflex. The future hub just looked unhappy and applied himself to finishing seeding his tomato.

I also once had a couple from Cameroon for dinner, and double checked that they liked "le riz sauvage" ie "wild rice". They knew me extremely well (I helped them both as a friend through her near death and loss of a pregnancy) but years of cultural "training" made them hesitate for a long time over the word "sauvage", until I saw the looks on their faces, and them trying to compose themselves, and I grabbed the box with the picture on it of First Nations Canadians, and launched into a cheery explanation of "le riz sauvage" actually being a form of wheat that grows in the wild in marshy areas, and was culled, and now cultivated by the Native Canadians,...

I should be more careful about my culinary expressions! :( LOL :)

To me both episodes speak to how ingrained the impact of colonialism still is.

Great question, thanks!
November 21, 2009 1:37 AM

Chiara said...

Abu Abdullah--thanks for your comment and sharing your perspective on the military and media contributions to the problem. I do think that Major Hasan, after trying honourable solutions and getting no where, did suffer a mental impairment of judgment that led to this behaviour that is so uncharacteristic of his past behaviour.

The examples from the Indian experience in the past and the present are worth thinking about. It seems at least from the outside that Muslim Americans may well be serving in armed forces that do not fully trust them. I think the issue of Major Hasan having served in a Medical unit and being largely protected from the broader military culture played a role in why life at Fort Hood, the "real thing" militarily, and a pre-deployment base was less tenable even if he adapted well according to his supervisor there. The threat of imminent deployment was too much.

I am sure there are so many committees reviewing this that new policies will be forth coming but I hope readers here will voice their thoughts on your question about whether Muslim Americans should be serving, and perhaps where, or whether the military itself is ready for them.

I understand fragging to be a military solution, usually in combat to a difficult officer, commissioned or non, and which others are just as happy to see the end of. Like suicides in war, these homicides are easier to pass off as normal casualties.

Which reminds me that both suicide and homicide rates in the US military are unusually high in these wars in Iraq and Aghanistan--and I haven't read an explanation for it.

All speculations, comments are welcome!
November 21, 2009 1:49 AM

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