A blog post on the impact of region of upbringing on views of the Middle East.
There is no doubt that where you live has a huge impact on how you view other civilizations. Perhaps one of the most notable instance of this would be an American’s view of the Middle East.
Given the high involvement in the region by the United States going for the entirety of my lifetime there is no doubt my view of the middle east is much different that what it is actually like to live in the Middle East and what middle easterners are like.
There are two images that come to mind when thinking of who Middle Easterners are. First, there is the mega-wealthy oil princes living in Dubai, driving expensive cars and traveling in their Boeing business jets. The extreme wealth not only amazes most Americans but is often difficult to even imagine.
The second image that comes to mind when thinking of Middle Easterners is the crazed Islamic jihadists. This is the image most often portrayed in the media. For the near entirety of my lifetime the U.S has had some military involvement in this region combating these militants and attempting to “bring stability” to the region. Seemingly to no avail.
All of this gives the image of super wealthy, super religious people who cannot form working governments and have resisted U.S aid.
This is all easy to say coming from an American perspective and frequently watching the news, however a more difficult challenge is to imagine how Middle Easterners view Americans.
In reality the number of jihadists and terrorists in the Middle East is a very small percentage of the population as a whole, however they receive the most media coverage for obvious reasons. The result being that Middle Easterners most likely view Americans as trying to combat a relatively small force with the entire might of the U.S military destroying everything in their path.
There is also the longstanding mistrust of westerners after centuries of exploit in the region. So when American troops ride into Iraq bringing “freedom” and “democracy” there should be no confusion as to why they are met with resistance and skepticism.
The moral of the story here being that both the United States and the Middle East have very skewed perceptions of each other resulting in further conflict. If we take a moment to recognize that the majority of the people in the Middle East are not extremists and are normal people with normal goals. To provide food, shelter, education, and find a job. Then we can better understand the region as a whole.