The ‘Others’ in Our Communities: Out-of-Staters v. New Jerseyans

NJ Regions - Best of NJ

New Jersey, Northern New Jersey in particular, has a rich and location-

specific culture that can oftentimes confuse out-of-staters. New Jerseyans say “down the shore” when referring to the beach, order “gabagool” at

NJ Vocabulary: What Are Jughandles? - Best of NJ mom-and-pop Italian restaurants, and curse out Pennsylvania plates who get confused on the highway at the concept of “jug-handles.” We celebrate “mischief night” the night before Halloween, and order “disco fries” at diners. We, in North Jersey, call it “taylor ham” instead of pork roll, and notoriously order it as “taylorhameggandcheesesaltpepperketchup” at the counter of the deli.

Taylor Ham/Taylor Pork Roll – 6 LB Pork Roll | Jersey Pork Roll

Despite not having obvious differences in appearance or speech from residents many other states, and even fewer between Staten and Long Island residents, there is definitely a sense of out-of-staters being placed under a monolith of “other.” In the summer, people will complain about “bennys,” a term for out-of-staters who congest the parkway and other highways while flocking to the shore for their week-long rentals. I have extended family in Wyoming and Lackawanna Counties, Pennsylvania, and they’re colloquially known within my family as the “Pennsylvania boys,” or the “Pennsylvania side,” and when we visit them, we drive across the Delaware Water Gap into “Pennsyltucky.”

New Jersey v. New York - WikipediaDespite being right across the river, a resident of Hoboken, Jersey City, or even West New York would never say they they live in a NYC suburb. New Yorkers who drive into Jersey for games or concerts at Metlife Stadium might be mocked for claiming a stadium and teams who play and exist solely in East Rutherford.  We claim Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, though New Yorkers might say otherwise, and Bruce and Sinatra are uniquely ours. There is competition with New York and Connecticut over who has the best bagels, the best pizza. North Jersey claims NYC as “the city,” though in South Jersey that epithet may refer to Philadelphia.

Despite this specific culture, a lot of which derives from the North Jersey Italian diaspora a la The Sopranos, New Jersey transplants will be accepted into the community as long as they proudly claim it home. The distinguishment of “others”  generally refers to travelers–especially in the summer–or commuters.

My perception of out-of-staters is usually general frustration, especially on the road. Despite knowing NJ highways can be highly confusing to out-of-

New Jersey Beach Map on Behancestate drivers, I complain when they’ll cut me off in an exit-only lane, or when they go the speed limit (or under) in any lane but the right-hand one(a Jersey faux pas). I am proud of the Jersey Shore, and truly think it is one of the greatest stretches of coastline in the United States, though I get frustrated when popular public beaches like Seaside Heights or Long Branch are congested with Pennsylvanians.

With Pennsylvania in particular, I think New Jersey attitudes are shaped partly by classism. New Jersey is one of the wealthiest states in the U.S.,  and most workers are white collar and have college degrees. Even the casual phrase “Pennsyltucky” places a negative connotation on rural, working class areas, especially the Appalachian region. Being aware of the vast history and contexts behind culture, slang, and attitudes can help one be more conscious of their language, and how these “others” might perceive it.

New Jersey is not exactly known as a friendly state with friendly residents, and I think “othering” contributes to that. In North Jersey, I think perceptions shaped by The Sopranos, Jersey Shore, Real Housewives, and real life mafioso-types only contribute to this perception. In “othering,” our attitudes also shape this perception, which in turn continues to reinforces it.

Pennsylvania hates New Jersey and New Jersey hates everyone, according to poll - pennlive.com

In studying the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), it is critical to be aware of “othering.” Residents of MENA might be demographically different than “home” communities of many in the class, though they should not be perceived as a collective “other,” because it diminishes their individuality as community members of groups of their own, ones a lot more localized than being a resident of MENA. There are many distinct communities and groups in MENA that should be studied individually and not collectively. Assumptions should not be made about the region in whole because it ignores the region’s vast diversity. Also, the very concept of “othering” places focus on the differences between people and groups, rather than the similarities, which can lead to a higher level of depersonalization and division.

Being aware of “othering” is a crucial step in understanding its effects, especially if they lead to negative stereotyping and prejudice.

The Beirut Barracks Bombing of 1983 – A Reflection on the Clark Forum Panel Event

On Thursday September 21st, I attended a Clarke Forum event discussing the Beirut Barracks Bombing of 1983, its precursors, and its ramifications. I was unfortunately unable to attend in person due to a mild case of vertigo, but the staff at the Clarke Forum do a wonderful job of livestreaming their events. It was done panel-style with three guest lecturers: Mireille Rebeiz, a professor here at Dickinson College, James Breckenridge, a former dean at the U.S. Army War College, and Michael Gaines who represented the Beirut Veterans of America and whose brother died in Beirut. 

The Flag of Lebanon: History, Meaning, and Symbolism - AZ Animals

I found the event very fascinating. Coming into it, my knowledge of Lebanese history and American interference in the state was limited. Dr. Rebeiz, who grew up in Lebanon, began the event with historical context to U.S. interference and the bombing. Lebanon, a small state situated between numerous countries, is vastly religiously diverse, with its population representing not only different religions, but different sects and denominations. Hence, religious conflict has been a long-told tale in the country, starting with their first religious war in 1860 while it was still part of the Ottoman Empire. In 1958, the U.S. had it’s first intervention in the state when Lebanese president Camille ChamounCamille Chamoun — Google Arts & Culture wanted to extend his term. The U.S., operating under the Truman Doctrine, answered Chamouns call. This occurred in a post Sikes-Picot and Balfour Agreement Lebanon, where the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was headquartered in the country, and the Cairo Agreement allowed them to fight against Israel at the Lebanon/Israel border. This increased religious conflict because many Christians in Lebanon advocated more for peace with Israel, while many Muslims of the country wanted to stand in solidarity with their Arab neighbors.

The Lebanese Civil War began in 1975 and lasted until 1991.  Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 during the war, partly to fight the PLO. Then, the Reagan Administration decides to deploy troops in 1982 to try to quell the ongoing conflict and violence. This begins the story of the bombing in 1983.

Truman Doctrine (1947) | National Archives

The extent of Lebanon’s sectarian and religious violence was surprising to me–I was no

t aware how religiously diverse the country was, with several competing sects within several competing religions. I never learned about the U.S. involvement in Lebanon in high school, nor the Lebanese Civil War in general. It made sense to me that interference would be justified with the Truman Doctrine, though the U.S.’s occupation for 2 years is definitely a liberal use of such policy. In foreign policy, the U.S. is quite picky about where they intervene with humanitarian or democratic justifications. If what was happening in Lebanon was occurring in another region of the world, I wonder if the U.S. would have still intervened, or whether the intervention was solely due to Lebanon’s strategic position.

The second speaker, James Breckinridge, prefaced his part of the event with an acknowledgement of his retrospection and subjectivity as a Beirut veteran, which I found interesting. He emphasized the value of historical memory, a theme of the event in whole. He described the arrival of the Marine Corp in the country, and how the power vacuum that formed after the Lebanese president was assassinated was the catalyst for further instability and violence, especially in regards to the PLO and their Christian adversaries. The Marine Corp was involved directly with the Lebanese army, which was mostly Maronite Christian. This caused anti-U.S. conflict as many Lebanese saw that move as the Marines taking sides. The U.S. embassy was bombed, and the airport was relentlessly attacked. Then, on October 23, 1983, 241 soldiers killed by a detonated truck bomb, which was the largest loss of life on the Marine Corp in a single day since Iwo Jima.

TIME Magazine Cover: Marines in Beirut - Oct. 31, 1983 - Lebanon - Marines  - Terrorism - Middle East

It makes sense to me that non-Maronite groups in Lebanon would see the Marines as an adversary. The U.S. was and still is a widely Christian country, and their involvement with the army made it known that their mission as more than just peace keeping. I emphasize with the the Reagan cabinet’s debate between interference and noninterference, though wonder how much of the Marine’s (and the Army’s) interference was done on orders from the U.S., or rather done in supposed necessity at the moment. I also found it particularly interesting that the embassy bombing the entire CIA contingent in Beirut, and the challenges that arouse from the sudden absence of intelligence occurring from such a strategic attack. For such a monumental event (one compared to Iwo Jima!), I’m surprised it has not stood the test of time in history education and in the greater collective memory. My great uncle was an Okinawa Sugar Loaf veteran, and the forum made me think of him and the dying contingent of WWII vets, and how their experiences will soon be history, rather than memory. Iwo Jima and other destructive WWI battles like those on Okinawa iare greatly remembered–how can we develop those same remembrance principles with other attacks on U.S. citizens?

The third speaker stressed that “everyone has a story” and how “it’s all of our duties to remember.” This is why not only memorials, but also educational events like this one are crucial in historical education, empathy, and remembrance. The 1983 Beirut Barracks Bombing was influential due to the resulting politics of Southwest Asia, yes, but it was also greatly influential in loss of life, and its more localized scale should not be overlooked. I am glad I was able to hear such a lecture, and learn more not only about U.S. intervention in Lebanon, but also Lebanon as a country and the veterans who served there. 

Beirut Memorial & Grove | Jacksonville, NC - Official Website

Where I Live: Where They Live: A Reflection on Place and Experience

Where I Live:

I grew up in the township of Denville, a town in New Jersey of around 17,000 with snowy winters (though less in recent years) and hot summers.

My house, where I have lived my entire life, and which my mom bought in 1998

I spent many summers as a child as a member of Rock Ridge, one Denville’s four residential lake communities .

New York City is around a 45 minute drive away, and many people in the area commute into the greater New York State daily, including my father, who works in Purchase, NY. Others commute into the many NYC suburbs on the Jersey side of the river, including my mom, who works in Newark, and me this summer, who worked in Lyndhurst.

I attended Morris Knolls High School, a regional high school in the nearby Rockaway . At Morris Knolls, a wide variety of programs and opportunities were available. New Jersey spends one of the highest amounts of money per pupil than any other U.S. state. I was able to take AP Tests, participate in theatre, and take specialized classes such as Creative Writing, Concert Band, Personal Law, and Animal Behavior.

The facade of my high school

The median household income in New Jersey is $89,703. Both my parents are in the workforce, and my mom has a graduate degree.

 

 

Where They Live:

How a Pipeline From Iran to Syria Could Bring Peace | Letter to Britain

Life in the Tigris/Euphrates Valley is different for a variety of reasons, but there are also general similarities. Iran and Turkey experience snow in the winters, but in Iraq it is quite rare. All three countries experience mild winters and very hot summers. Bodies of water are more scarce there than in my area of New Jersey, though it is not as scarce as many other states in Southwest Asia. Many Turks, Iranians, and Iraqis would not spend their summers swimming with their friends in nearby lakes.

World Water Day: Mapping water stress across the Middle East | Environment News | Al JazeeraThe region’s population has become increasingly urbanized, though outside of urban areas, there doesn’t exist much of a classic “suburbia” or greater metropolitan area such as in New Jersey.

Iraq has the lowest female literacy rate in the region, a large percentage of Iranian women attend university, despite the schools being segregated by sex, and in Turkey, many girls leave school between the ages of 6 and 14, though the literacy rate is above 99%. My counterpart in this region’s education would depend severely on where she lives. The opportunities presented to her, especially considering her sex, would likely be fewer.

30 Facts on the Education System of Islamic Republic of Iran | ACEI-Global

Iranian women posing with their degrees

The median household income is around 5,000 USD in Iran, 5,270 USD in Iraq, and 3,684 USD in Turkey. If my counterpart lived in one of these states, there would a moderate chance one or both of her parents would be unemployed, considering the high unemployment rates.

Despite these experiential differences between Americans and habitants of the Tigris/Euphrates Valley and Anatolia, I believe lives could play out similarly regardless of geographical location and all that comes with. There are factors beyond location and nationality that shape someone’s life.

Who knows, just might be someone in this region who thinks my thoughts and has lived a life scarily similar to my own.