Coming Home, Part 1

I’m just going to write a few blogs about coming home to the US after six years abroad doing aid work. Going to write about those things I find odd or just piss me off. This particular blog is about the first time I came home, after the Army and coming home now to a lot of Islamophobia in our country, it’s something I don’t understand and behavior I just can’t accept.

So after six years abroad working for an international humanitarian aid organization and living outside the US in places from South Sudan to Poland to Guatemala to Jordan and Lebanon, I’ve been at home in the US for about three months now. I find it interesting. That’s one way to put it.

This isn’t my first experience with coming home after an experience that’s generally outside the American norm. The first one was after four years in the US Army and deployments to Kosovo and Afghanistan. I got in major car wreck almost right as I left the Army. Broke part of my spine, I’m lucky to be able to walk.

I mention it because the state of my body greatly factored into that first coming home period. The state of my body and the fact I decided to move to a place where I didn’t know anyone. I wasn’t but 23 at the time. Re-adjustment was a difficult experience.

My primary feeling back then was anger. I was pissed off that there was an entire generation that couldn’t feel what I felt. I thought they were sheltered. I thought they were weak. I was pissed off that we were at war in Iraq which I logically saw no justification for and the country, the American people had allowed us to get there. I was pissed off at myself because I couldn’t go, I didn’t want to go, but I felt guilty about not being there.

I was pissed off that the whole country had forgotten about Afghanistan. They could give less than a shit I thought. I was pissed off because I had learned the first rule of growing up. The universe is big, and chaotic things happens, it all makes sense but you won’t be able to understand it all, and sometimes it just crushes you under its thumb. Or to put it more simply, shit happens, deal with it.

Those are the thoughts that I had and the emotions that I felt. The feelings aren’t right or wrong really. They’re just feelings. They happen. They come from a place. As far as the thoughts, well some of them I still think, some of them I grew past and look at now in a new light.

That was my first experience with coming home. This is my second.

I’m thirty six. And for an average American I’ve got a fair bit of mileage on me for a thirty six year old. I’ve seen and done some things, not everything by a long, long shot but some things. I know people. I’m significantly less angry then I was at twenty three.

And, in all fairness this whole adjustment thing isn’t that bloody hard in some ways. Six years ago when I started, I started in the bush in South Sudan, sleeping in my tent and dealing with our never ending stream of problems, big and small. I was there for eighteen months. It was an intense experience in many ways. Going from there back home (without work) would have been interesting. Or going from a similar place.

But my last duty station was Lebanon. Beirut was fine. It is a beautiful city. And a chaotic one. And it can be a toxic one. It’s generally schizophrenic, but it’s modern and I had all the creature comforts. No complaints. Now the job itself was an interesting story. One for another time, but it’s enough to say that at my last job while I was operational I was fairly removed from the direct realities of on the ground aid work.

This is all my way of saying I transitioned in the best way one could just naturally. So coming back home this time was quite a bit easier in many ways. But there’s still a few things about America in 2016. As much as you never surprise me anymore there’s top line shit that just pisses me off.

First off, what’s with the Islamophobia? I truly, truly don’t understand. And take out the fact that I’ve lived in Muslim majority countries for over half of my last six years so yes I’m biased because I actually know people and their my friends and they’re just people so I don’t get the classifications of all Muslims are this or that, no, an individual is an individual. Deal with it.

But leaving my own past aside for a second, there’s 1.6 billion Muslims on the planet. That’s a very wide, diverse group. And more than 1/6th of all the human beings on the planet. But yet we want to put a ban on all Muslims coming into the country? That’s stupid. On so many levels it’s not even funny. If you want to combat extremism in a faith whether it’s Christianity or Islam you don’t do it by barring the entire faith from your country. You wouldn’t be able to enforce it anyway, even if you could you would significantly damage your reputation around the world…and most importantly, it is not America.

At least the not the America I choose to believe in. I understand the America that got to be America after the genocide of Native Americans and slavery. I understand the America that had Japanese internment camps in WWII. I understand the America that has one of if not the highest incarceration rate in the developed world and predominantly those numbers are African American. I understand the America that starts wars in other places that I don’t agree with.

I get all that and I accept it, doesn’t mean I can’t understand the past in order to understand the way things are and it doesn’t mean I can’t fight against those things I think are wrong. But there’s also another America, the one I choose, the one I want to believe in.

That America is the one where you can live and raise a family and hold a job and have everything you need and not, generally, have to worry about violence and poverty (and I’m not saying those things don’t happen in our country, they do and that needs dealt with). I understand the America that takes care of its veterans. I’m living proof of that, I got my education, and I wouldn’t have otherwise.  I understand the America where immigrants can come from other places where they didn’t have a chance and they can have a chance here. I understand the America where we all look different but we can still get along and figure out our problems together, as Americans. That’s the America I want to believe in.

That was my long way of saying that this should not be an issue. It shouldn’t be a conversation. If we want to have real, meaningful conversations about terrorism, in all its forms, who perpetrates it, what it looks like, what the risks are, how it starts and what can logically be done about it, that’s another conversation. A different conversation. Blaming an entire population or an entire faith for something that only a very, very small percentage is responsible for and I might add, that here in America there are far, far, far more likely ways that something bad will happen to you, well blaming an entire faith is just stupidity.

And it’s weak. It means that you’re not willing to look at the whole situation with your rational mind and figure out what the problems are and what the risks are. You just want to be afraid and blame the “other” for what might not even be your real problem.

We lose compassion by being afraid. A lot of people are suffering out there because of that. And I’m not arguing for compassion without intelligence….you need both.

I’m not sure if I need to explain myself further. It seems apparent to me but I’m not sure why it’s not clear to everyone. Don’t blame an entire religion for the actions of a few. Don’t try to counter that statement because I can make a million better counter arguments, because that statement is correct. Hate, prejudice and racism in all their forms breed extremism. If you respond with those things to extremists then you are playing into their hands, you’re doing what they want and you’ve created more problems.

And just…..think for the love of God.

I hope that’s clear enough. I would be more than willing to debate anyone at anytime. And I’ll try to be clearer as I go along.