22 januari 2020

World War 3?

There are few moments in my life in which I felt such poignant dread. My earliest experiences were, as a child, when my frustrated teachers would finally send me to the principal's office. It was a similar experience to the first day teaching in prison and seeing hardened-looking convicts walking the yard. These emotions were running through my head as I anticipated news of another war. 

As I approach the end of my first Dutch language course, I am reminded by the American writer, Mark Twain, who said: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.”

It was as true 150 years as it is now.

These language courses are filled with international students and are very much a microcosm of Amsterdam itself. The experiences I have had here have only served to affirm my previous beliefs that, back in the US, the media narratives toward other people were vulgar over-simplifications. In my previous years traveling abroad, I’ve only met the friendliest Russians and Chinese. Our common humanity in this course was so blatantly obvious. Our differences as internationals were dissolved in a collective unity of Dutch-ignorance. 

I dreaded Trump’s announcement that day because I was largely exasperated with the xenophobia and militarism around me back home: 

The college I worked at also trained extensive numbers of law enforcement. I would see them walking around in their student uniform with fake plastic guns as news of police shootings and family separation played in the back of my head.  

To and from my commute to work I would see all sorts of military vehicles transferred along the rail tracks as news of Trump sending troops to the border and threatening to fire on refugees was still fresh. 

Even at home, I lived close enough to the Air Force base to constantly hear the hum of military-boeings landing congruous to constant news of indiscriminate bombing in Afghanistan. 

It seems I can’t escape the constant swirl of war and militarization. I worry for my childhood friend who has half her family in Iran. I think of my previous partner’s best friend, who’s worlds-away from the American-hating stereotype propagated throughout the media spheres. 

I had hoped moving to another country would have given me a longer break from the news at home. I was wrong.

At least the memes were good. 


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