The other day I work, I began to talk with my managers about schoolwork. When I mentioned the Middle East, some very negative opinions on the region came up. My one manager, a former Marine, had deployed to Afghanistan twice and Iraq once. He had an extremely negative view on the region, referring to it as a “sh*thole” of a place. I was understanding of his feelings, as he had lost a few friends while serving there.
My other manager agreed with him, although he had never served. Curious as to why he thought this, I asked him if he had ever been to the region. He explained to me that while he had never been to the region, his grandparents had once lived in Syria. After talking with him further, it appears that they likely lived in modern day Lebanon, part of Greater Syria before the creation of the modern states that exist today. According to what he told me, his grandparents were forced to leave the area in the early 1900’s, as they were forced out by Muslims due to the fact that they were practicing Christians.
While his feelings were understandable, I couldn’t help but marvel at the fact that events over a century ago still mare people’s perception of different cultures and regions within the world. The conversation gave me an appreciation for courses such as this. I would be lying if I didn’t have a similar view to both of these men a few years ago due to many similar conversations with family friends, several of whom deployed with the military to the MENA region, as well as the common perception of Orientalism. However, classes such as this have showed me the region in a different light, so much so that I plan to study abroad within Jordan in order to gain a first hand experience into the culture and history of MENA.