I grew up in small towns across the northeastern and eastern parts of Pennsylvania. Namely Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Fleetwood. The thing these places have in common is their homogeneity. Most of the people I knew growing up were white and Christian like me. I also grew up during the height of the War on Terror. My parents were always clear to separate Islam from terrorism, but I could tell many of my peer’s parents were not so careful to draw that distinction.
Middle Easterners of a similar age grew up with the American military ever-present in their regions, be it on the news or in their daily lives. Many have had to deal with terrorism in much more intimate and visceral terms than I ever had. They live an existence I can hardly fathom, practicing faiths to which I have very little exposure, and living in a landscape that is alien to me.
These things can very easily drive a wedge between people, nations, societies, and cultures. And fighting this current of division and mistrust can be difficult. The best way I can think of is to reconcile our differences and make a mutual effort at coming to terms with each other. We don’t have to sing kumbaya and hold hands, but understanding each other’s values and priorities is important. I think coming to terms with our disagreements is more important than finding agreement. By this, I mean to say that we should resolve ourselves to disagreement rather than pursuing clean cut resolutions. In fact, I think coming from a position of understanding and nonjudgement makes Western goals and interests more attainable and easier to realize than through confrontation.