Learning a Language, and Relearning a Country by Hugh Martin (NYT)

Below is a portion of a beautifully written essay by HUGH MARTIN titled "Learning a Language, and Relearning a Country" which was published in The New York Times on August 27, 2012.  If you like it, then I strongly urge you to read the whole piece at http://atwar.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/27/learning-a-language-and-relearning-a-country/

Quote from the New York Times: "For Hugh Martin, taking Arabic as a student almost six years after he had returned as a soldier meant coming to terms with his conditioned prejudices and fears."

Courtesy of Hugh Martin (the author).

Here is a small portion from Hugh Martin's piece in The New York Times (c).   See the complete piece at http://atwar.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/27/learning-a-language-and-relearning-a-country/

Running late to class in my third week of Arabic, I jogged up the angled staircase, past the drinking fountains, then turned the corner. My classroom was four doors down the hallway. As I glanced up, I almost smacked heads with a girl — all I saw were her large brown eyes dilated in front of me. Both of us jumped. 

The encounter was eerily similar to the one I’d had that night in Sadiya: her body was covered completely in a black abaya and her head in a black hijab, and a purple veil hid her whole face, except her eyes and the upper bridge of her nose. In this hallway, it was common to see women in traditional Muslim dress because many of the Arabic classes took place on this floor. But for that second, not only was I startled from almost running into someone, but the sudden sight of her veiled face so close to my own caused a slight tinge of nervousness, even fear. In my conscience, I sensed that a vague “danger” signal was going off, and felt wrong for being so close to a woman dressed in traditional Arab garb.

“Excuse me,” I mumbled and stepped to the side. She looked to the ground and passed. Not surprisingly, within seconds, the fear vanished and I felt guilt for having it. My palms were sweating. It’d been more than six years since I’d returned. In some ways, I thought I’d grown, matured, simply gotten over this prejudice, this fear I had had that was so clear on that first raid in Sadiya when I came face to face — the first of many times — with an Iraqi woman in her own home. I knew this cautiousness and suspicion had been necessary in Iraq, but now, back in America, I had to trick myself out of it. This fear seemed to rise from the subconscious: an instinct, not a choice.

Seconds later, as I swung open the door and walked into class, the 20 or so heads of my peers glanced at me. Six or seven girls, including my teacher, looked up in the clothing they wore every day: heads covered with a hijab, only their faces visible. I avoided looking at them because I felt that this prejudice radiated off of me. The white, bearded male, the Iraq veteran — his suspicion and fear of traditional Muslim dress clear in his eyes. Obviously I imagined their thinking this, knowing this, but was it just all in my head?

Read the entire essay at http://atwar.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/27/learning-a-language-and-relearning-a-country/

2 comments:

  1. Nice post Dr. Ramzi, Thanks for sharing such rare peices

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  2. Thanks for sharing this marvelous rare piece Dr Salti, your posts are like a cold breeze in the middle of the summer, so please keep us entertained.

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