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Although I am an immigrant myself, I realize that I am someone that came to America with privileges. I had paperwork and a green card, and after being in the US for a few years, my dad became naturalized and so did I. So I lived all my life in America without a single worry other than getting good grades and a good job.
However, there are many people in America that are not as privileged as I am. In particular, my friends at work are undocumented immigrants. They talk about not being able to get a driver’s license and financial aid for college. And, even the little things like always fearing that they could be turned into the authorities and be deported. They finally got a sense of relief when DACA was announced. Now, they could finally get a license and, although they do not qualify for the Pell Grant, they don’t have to worry about being forced to go home.
When I heard that DACA was being rescinded, I thought about my friends and what this meant for them. As people who have been in my life for a while, I was worried for their future. I did not want any of them to have to leave their life in America. One of them is in nursing school and is getting ready to graduate. And the other is pregnant and starting her little family here. It breaks my heart to think that they could both have to leave their lives here and go to a place that has been unknown to them for decades. All of their hard work and social ties would have gone to waste all because they don’t have papers. Their parents saw no future in Mexico and wanted a better life for their children when deciding to move to the US. DACA, to them, was a light at the end of the tunnel. Rather than kicking them out, I think there needs to be a way to deal with them ethnically. Also, rather than building a wall and trying to keep Latin Americans out of the US, we need to look at why they are risking everything by trying to come to America. By understanding their situation, the US could see a decrease in illegal immigration.
As you may know from reading my other blog posts, I was in South Korea for study aboard for an academic year. While I was there, I learned a great amount about South Korea, the world, and even more about myself. However, I often felt alone and lost as I did not know anyone in the country. My school was also not very helpful because the international student club cost money and was very centered around partying and drinking. Luckily, I made some friends after a few weeks of class and they were able to answer questions I had. I was very appreciative of these friends as they helped me through a lot
And so, I decided that I also want to be that friend. In the summer, I applied to be a NISO peer mentor, in which I have a group of international students that can connect me for help or just to hang out. I was very excited to apply and become a peer mentor because it felt like it was my way of repaying back the kindness I received in Korea. I was accepted and I attended the Crimson Connection day with much excitement. There, I met my group of students. They were from all over the world. There was a girl from England, a boy from Germany, a few from Africa, and a graduate student from South Korea. I was very happy to have a diverse group of students and potentially friends that I could hang out. One thing really enjoyed about being in Korea was the amount of international people I met, and so joining NISO allowed me to feel that way again. I will try my best this semester to become good friends with them as I really want to make connections that are worldwide.
While studying abroad, a group of friends and I went to Paris for a four-day weekend over Bastille Day, France’s national holiday. I was a little nervous about going to France because it was the first country I was going to where the national language is not English. I was worried that a lot of people we would run into would not speak English and it would be hard to get around. I had also heard a stereotype that many French people know English, but will not be willing to speak English with Americans. However, once we got to Paris, I had a very different experience. Most people I ran into spoke English and were very willing to speak English with us. On the train from London to Paris, we were practicing some common phrases in French and a lady sitting next to us helped us by critiquing our pronunciation. In the end, I didn’t have a single negative experience speaking with local French people.
Another thing I was surprised about was the French people’s attitude towards Bastille Day. I expected them to celebrate like how many Americans celebrate Independence Day, however, the celebrated much differently. I was expecting Paris to be extremely crowded on Bastille Day, however, there wasn’t as many people walking around the city as I had expected. I felt like many French people stayed in their homes and were happy to have the day off because most of the people I saw wandering the streets were tourists. Additionally, when we watched the fireworks show by the Eiffel Tower that night, many of the onlookers were quiet and contemplative rather than loud and celebratory like many Americans would act on the Fourth of July. Ultimately, I appreciated the way the French celebrated Bastille Day and had a great time watching the fireworks show by the Eiffel Tower. I hope to visit Paris again sometime on Bastille Day.
For the month of July, I studied abroad in Oxford, England where I took a class called “The Great War & the 20th Century.” I loved getting to explore Oxford because of its rich history and culture. I felt like everywhere we went, there was some historical significance. One of my favorite parts of Oxford was visiting the Eagle and Child, a pub where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien frequently met at. It was a cool experience eating at a place where these great minds regularly met.
Another thing I enjoyed about Oxford was exploring the various colleges of Oxford University. Each college has unique traditions and layouts so I enjoyed touring multiple colleges. We stayed in Brasenose College so I had plenty of time to explore it. Surprisingly, they were very strict about not letting you walk on the grass quad. If you happened to walk on the quad while the attendants were watching, they would get very angry. We also got to explore Magdalen College which had a very different atmosphere from Brasenose. It had a tower that we were able to walk up and see a great view of Oxford. We could even see Brasenose from the tower.
Overall, I had a really great experience while studying abroad this summer. I struck a good balance between studying for class and spending time exploring the areas I was visiting. I am already missing Oxford and I definitely plan on going back in the future!
Today was my last day in Aarhus.
I can’t believe how time flew by.
I passed with a 7/12 on my final oral examination for Viking Age Scandinavia, and I can honestly say I deserved a 4.
I am so glad that I chose this program over an OU program because it was fun being the only American in my entire class. We had about 45 students, and most of them were Danish. We had two Canadians, two Australians, a Singaporean, and me the American. I was afraid for the first few days that Danes were really closed off like I had heard a few people say and I wouldn’t get to know any of them, because they talked amongst themselves in Danish as soon as we reached a break in lecture. However, a few Danes reached out to the international students and then more and more Danish students were reaching out to us. Danish people are really obsessed with their “hygge” or coziness, and some of them find hygge in reading books by the fire or going out with friends for coffee or beer. What I love most about the Danish people I met was their humor and kindness. They made me feel at home, and I will always have a place for Denmark in my heart.
- I felt that some French people did not necessarily want to speak English, even if they were able to. They are French, they are in France, and they would rather speak French. Since I was traveling with my parents, we sometimes spoke Chinese. I felt that when we did, people were not as upset that we didn’t speak French but were happy that we at least spoke English.
- It’s a small world. I talked with some Indian New Zealanders in Paris for about 10 minutes, then three days later I ran into them in London as they were getting on a bus I was leaving.
- It’s much easier to be present in the moment when you don’t have any cellular data and normally suffer a bit of a snapchat addiction.
- In David Foster Wallace’s speech “This is Water,” he says that culture is all around us but we don’t notice it much. I do know that America has a culture and has customs, but I think it is easier to notice them when you experience a culture that is different than America’s. I’ve now realized how enthusiastic, outgoing, and loud us Americans are compared to Danes.
- Travel is not an itch you can scratch and have it disappear. Traveling to new places makes the desire to travel to even more places burn even brighter.
- Religion isn’t so much just a religion. Sometimes it’s more of a culture. I’ve met Catholics who never attend mass and don’t believe in hell. I’ve met Lutherans who don’t believe in God. There are barely any Mormons in Aarhus, and I suspect that a part of that is because how irreligious most people are, but many people religiously smoke and drink. The tour guide in Copenhagen said people drank an average of 80 liters per year there.
- I thought I was different in Oklahoma since there are not many Chinese people. But in my class here in Aarhus, I am the only American. I am one of two STEM students. (The other one is an engineering student from Singapore, and was the only other Asian funnily enough.) Most people there are Danish, blonde, and study prehistoric archeology. One Dane kindly pointed out that there was a Canadian in the class as well, but I am fairly sure that he lives 30 hours away from Oklahoma. I like being the only Chinese, the only pre-med, and the only American. It helped me feel how the United States really is only 5% of the world’s population. It’s hard to realize that when I’ve grown up in the US my whole life.
When Edward Said published his work on orientalism in the 1970s it served as kind of a shocking wake up call to the familiar and comfortable way academics around the world had been viewing the Arab World and the Middle East for the better part of the last couple of centuries. Today it is hard to image to find any kind of academic work on this region of the world that doesn’t make some mention of the term orientalism, or at least the ideas behind Said’s definition of orientalism. In the introduction to his work Edward Said mentions several key characteristics of orientalism; though these characteristics are many, and in some cases overlapping there are four of these characteristic that stand out: the geopolitical/ geographic nature of orientalism, the concept of a binary otherness, the uneven exchange of power, and the interests of the modern political-intellectual state. The characteristics of Said’s orientalism are evident in the work of Samuel Huntington’s “The Clash of Civilizations” and in the documentary Reel Bad Arabs by Jack Shaheen.
One of the first characteristics that Said points out in his efforts to define orientalism is the fact that the very name of orientalism comes from the geographic term of the colonial era for the east as the orient. As the very name of the term has such a strong tie to a geographical awareness it is no wonder the term itself has much to do with geography. In Huntington’s “The Clash of Civilizations” the main argument is the fact that an armageddon will arise from a great clash of civilizations along cultural lines, yet Huntington himself defines these “cultures” in very geographical terms such as “Western” or “Latin American” civilizations. While the Middle East is presumably defined under the flag of an Islamic civilization the rhetoric and pervasiveness of the ideas of orientalism bring to mind a the world of the Middle East. In Huntington’s work geography as a characteristic of orientalism may not seem abundantly clear it is certainly more clear in terms of Shaheen’s documentary. In Reel Bad Arabs there is an entire section of the documentary devoted to what Shaheen calls the idea of “Arabland;” according to him “Arabland” is the geography of a vast stretching desert that is nearly always presented in films as the harsh homeland of the Arabs. The homogeny of this image, and the unrealistic nature of this hegemony is a clear representation of geography as a characteristic of orientalism as Said discusses it. Orientalism is a process of hegemony and simplification, and simplifying the whole range of geography found in the Arab world to a simple never ending desert exemplifies this characteristic of orientalism perfectly.
The orientalist constant desire for simplification lends itself to another characteristic of orientalism that Said discusses. The uneven exchange of power between the east and the west is most evident in the fact that orientalism strips the “other” from being able to speak and define themselves. This uneven power balance is most clearly seen I think in the realm of stereotypes and generalizations. Shaheen explores this idea throughly through the the ideas of the sexually belly dancing women, the creepy leacherous Arab men always after the white women, and the more modern identity of the terrorist. All of these identities exemplify this uneven exchange of power as they are clearly representative of the other’s inability to define themselves. The idea of the other being unable to define themselves is also evident throughout Huntington’s piece as he makes great sweeping generalization about people and places, cherry picking the facts that fit his narrative while the viewpoint of the other remains silent. This uneven exchange of power is important in understanding the scope and effect of the orientalist narrative; perhaps if the characteristic didn’t exist orientalism would have never become as pervasive as it is today.
A third characteristic of Said’s definition of orientalism revolves around the concept of the binary us vs. them; that is to say the idea of an “other.” Personally I think this is the most important aspect of understanding orientalism as it is this idea that creates the self-perpetuating paradigm of orientalism that makes it such a hard social idea to overcome. The human fear of the other is a well documented thing throughout history, and in my opinion Huntington is a master of capturing that fear and legitimizing it in academic terms. Huntington’s paper quiet literally predicts the end of time, and in his world the question “Which side are you on?” becomes synonyms with the question of “What are you?” He then goes on to say that “what” one is “is a given that cannot be changed.” This idea exemplifies otherness and prevents the “other” from ever hoping to leave this category. Otherness is also discussed in Shaheen’s work as he discusses several films that come back to the point that these other Arabs will always be different than us, and even the children are programmed in a way to be different than the west. These ideas of otherness play off fear. It is a fundamental characteristic of orientalism that is important to understand in the greater quest to understand what exactly orientalism is.
A final characteristic of orientalism is the modern intellectual- political fascination surrounding the term. This fascination is something that is well documented in Shaheen’s documentary through the examination of the connection between Hollywood and Washington. There is no doubt that several of the movies he presented had strong political messages that as Said put it have less to do with the Arab world and more to do with our world. Huntington is also an example of the power of this current interest. One could argue his work would not have gotten nearly so much attention had it not catered to the political scene in Washington. In a way Huntington’s argument simplified a complex issue into term that fit what Washington wanted to hear; therefore, it got a level of acceptance that might have never occurred had it gone against the views of powerful politicians. The intellectual and political world has a great deal of influence, and it is for this reason Said classifies it as a characteristic of orientalism.
Orientalism is term that seeks to simplify, to put issues into simple binary term; the ideas of orientalism have been embraced throughout society again and again, yet there is hope as long as it is recognized when it appears. Said’s characteristics of geography, uneven power, otherness, and an understanding of the role of the modern intellectual and political situation define orientalism so that it might be better recognized. The work of Shaheen provides support for Said’s argument of orientalism, and Huntington exemplifies this term. In the future, as long we can recognize orientalism for what it is there is hope me can move beyond the binary.
In films The Baby Doll Night and Amreeka, directors Adel Adeeb and Cherien Dabis offer both Arab and Arab American perspective of America. These perspective interact with the ideas of otherness, American exceptionalism, and what it means to be Arab American. Although these two films are quiet different cinematically, they present similar views of America through their different characters. Although they presents the topics in different ways, both films highlight the struggles of being classified as an other, discuss the story of American exceptionalism with regards to the war in Iraq, and what it means to be Arab American.
Both films throughly engage with the issue of otherness in a similar fashion. The concept of otherness caters to the binary definitions of an us versus them mentality; it is a term that dehumanizes and separates the us -in this case America- from the other – in this case both Arab Americans and Arabs. The concept of otherness in both films represents a kind boundary that must be overcome in order for the characters to achieve some kind of peace. In the film, Amreeka, this concept of otherness can be seen through the characterization of Fadi. Fadi is a Palestinian who has recently moved to America with his mother and now lives with his aunt’s family. Despite the fact that Fadi is eager to embrace a new Arab American identity, he is constantly faced with the struggles of being labeled as “other” particularly in school. This concept of other begins with his wardrobe as his cousin immediately dismisses his clothes as too FOB or fresh of the boat, and continues as he is bullied and harassed at school despite his best efforts to overcome this brand of other that has been placed on him. In the end of the film, he is seen as embracing and overcoming this term by refusing to fit into the binaries that otherness has placed on him. In the film The Baby Doll Night, otherness is dealt with similarly as a term though the circumstances are quiet different. The film takes place in the Arab world, and the viewer finds that despite this fact the concept of otherness is still a major issue of the film. I would argue in this film the concept of otherness does not center on a single chapter, but rather a more general examination of the relationship between the Arab world and America in response to the question that General Peter keeps asking which is “Why do the hate us?” I think that the director of the film was trying to make several arguments with this question, but Sarah’s understanding of the situation as America having always viewed Arabs as the dehumanized others provides the viewer with a greater understanding of otherness in this piece. Similarly to Amreeka, otherness is a brand that strips one of the power to decide and forces one to live within the binary. Sarah realizes that until both Arabs and Americans learn to place such terms aside there will be no peace. Both films engage with the concept of otherness as a binary cage that pits the us against the them and show the viewer that this binary must be overcome for peace of any kind to be achieved.
Although the perspectives of American exceptionalism with regard to the war in Iraq are presented very differently in these two films, I would argue that the directors strove to present similar messages. The film The Baby Doll Night dealt a lot more with the Iraqi war than Amreeka yet both managed to discusses the influence of American exceptionalism in this conflict. In Amreeka, this discussion was presented as just that, a class room discussion in Fadi’s social sciences class in high school. In this environment the voice of America exceptionalism was presented predominantly through a student in the class room whose brother was fighting in Iraq, while the rejection of this idea was voiced by Fadi’s cousin Selma. In the discussion, the idea of American exceptionalism comes out through the male student’s claim that his bother is over there fighting to give the Iraqi people freedom which caters to the exceptionalist concept that America has a responsibility to spread democracy across the world. Selma rejects this claim as the voice of the other stating that if the student truly believes that he is blind to the realities of the world. Although presented in a much more gruesome reality, The Baby Doll Night offers a similar perspective. In this film, the viewer sees the cost of American exceptionalism in the bloody reality of the Iraqi war. The message regarding the destructive and naive nature of American exceptionalism in this film can be understood through an interaction that Awadin has with a Iraqi taxi driver. The driver says that no, the Arab people didn’t love Suddam Hussien, but when he was in charge he understood things the Americans never even considered, and when he was in charge there wasn’t the bloody war they were living through in the film. On the other hand there is General Peter who serves as the voice of American exceptionalism in the film; he repeatedly argues that the Americans are fighting to bring democracy which he sees as an American duty. Although different, both of these films give the viewer the message that American exceptionalism, particularly in the Iraqi war, is a dangerous nativity that is put onto the American people who either can’t or won’t see the true cost of this idea.
A final similarity between these two films can be seen in the examination of what it means to be an Arab American. Amreeka deals a lot with this idea, particularly with the characterization of Raghda who has been living as an Arab American for fifteen years at the start of the film. Raghda is presented as extremely homesick and melancholy sick of her live in America and longing to return to Palestine. She has idealized her former live in Palestine and routinely makes trips to the Arab markets in an effort to feel connected with her home land. Although Amreeka also offers other perspectives on what it means to be an Arab American the characterization provides one strong similarity between the two films. In The Baby Doll Night, the story of Layla Corrie represents a similar perspective of what it means to be an Arab American. Layla is a news correspondent who is sympathetic to the cause of the Palestine in the Arab-Israeli conflict; in the film, she is run over by an Israeli tank. Although these two character might not seem similar at first, they present a similar message on what it means to be an Arab American. In these two cases, the Arab American identity is synonymous with destruction. In Raghda’s case this destruction is one of happiness and belonging, and in the case of Layla this destruction is one of life in its entirety. Although these are two very different stories, I would argue the directors’ messages were similar in both, there can be a successful Arab American story, Housam in The Baby Doll Night and Muna in Amreeka, but there can also be destruction and sorrow. In this way, both of these films presented similar perspectives on what it means to be Arab American.
The films The Baby Doll Night and Amreeka are two very different films that follow different story lines, yet they present similar messages and critiques regarding the concept of otherness, the story of American exceptionalism in the Iraqi war, and what it means to be an Arab America. Through characters such as Sarah, Awadin, and General Peter, or Fadi, Raghda, and Selma these two films leave the viewer with different emotions, but strong similar messages. The use of these different perspectives to provide similar conclusions makes a strong argument for the universality of these concepts.
This years Arabic Talent Show was a great display of talent amongst all of the students in OU’s Arabic Program. I really enjoyed the various videos that represented different classes and levels of Arabic. Humor was apart of nearly every video and the audience certainly reflected that with the roaring laughter that filled the room. My personal favorite was skit titled The New Student by the Arabic Drama Club. It featured the famous Moha from Al-kitaab and brought in mixture of Oklahoman and Egyptian Humor. What was particularly satisfying was the food at the event. The chicken and rice filled my stomach allowing me sit perfectly stuffed throughout the night. I finished off the evening with some baklawa and tea that was a flavor I had never experienced before. I hope to be apart of next year’s talent show. I will be continuing my Arabic studies this summer and hopefully will return to campus with fresh and new skills that will contribute to the success of the Arabic department!!