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America's Funniest
(& Smartest) Arab

I Love America…
Amer Zahr
by Amer Zahr
July 4th, 2013 (10 Comments)
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(This post has been slightly revised from July 4, 2012, and re-posted now)

I love America, but sometimes it’s hard.

America was built by white men fleeing religious persecution in Europe.  They wrote an amazing Constitution, a document that both exhibits and secures  our civic and political values.  Within it they enshrined the doctrine of separation of church and state, as well as that of freedom of religious expression.  In many ways, the Constitution was ahead of its time.  Thomas Jefferson, our third president, once wrote that even “Mohammedans” would be entitled to the same religious freedoms meant for everyone else.  Today, those religious freedoms are under attack, as the NYPD secretly monitors Muslim groups, legislators pass laws outlawing Sharia (which no Muslims in America have suggested implementing in any case), and Muslims are seen as a threatening group that needs to constantly prove its patriotism.

But my country has free refills on soda at almost every restaurant. So I love America, but sometimes it’s hard.

The colonial settlers who came to this land created a remarkable civilization.  But it should not be completely forgotten that there was indeed a native population living here before them.  Instead of granting these people the freedoms they exalted, they drove the natives from their land, killing hundreds of thousands of them along the way.

And now we celebrate a holiday called “Thanksgiving.”  We all take a 4-day weekend, watch football, and overeat.  All of these things are welcome developments for Arab-Americans.  We're even genetically predisposed to overeating.  But Thanksgiving also commemorates a when light-skinned foreign people pretended to make peace with dark-skinned native people, kicked them out and stole their land (and their recipes).

But the internet here is pretty fast.  So I love America, but sometimes it’s hard.

Slavery was enshrined into our beginnings, and African-Americans were not granted any slivers of freedoms until almost a hundred years after our nation's founding.  And it took another hundred years for any semblance of equality to start to emerge.  Now we have a black president.  Of course, racism is not gone by any means.  Only a couple years back, conservative activists protested the policies of President Obama by holding up signs of him dressed as an African chief with a bone through his nose.

Barack Obama proved a black guy can become president… if he went to Harvard Law School, if he wrote three books, if he’s only half black, if his mom is Anne from Kansas, and if he’s one of the best political speakers of all time.  George W Bush proved that any white guy can become president.

But here we have McDonald’s "dollar menu."  This is the only country in the world where poor people can be fat.  So I love America, but sometimes it’s hard.

Arab-Americans are part of the intricately woven cultural history of this country.  We are active in the realms of politics, culture, academia, entertainment, and business.  But we live a kind of weird existence.  We are clearly a minority that suffers discrimination, yet the American government classifies us as “white."  We don’t have a box on the census form!  That makes it more difficult for us to demand our civil rights.  After all, white people are doing fine in this country, aren't they?  Of course, in reality, we are not white. So we live in a world where where are socially and politically visible, but legally invisible.  And still, the Census Department doesn’t have a box for us.  But it’s ok, I have been informed that the FBI definitely does.

But Dish Network has over a thousand channels, and 200 in high definition! So I love America, but sometimes it’s hard.

As a Palestinian-American, I constantly watch American media and politicians trash my people.  We are branded as backwards terrorists and oppressive animals who are not worthy of any human rights.  Newt Gingrich called us “invented.”  I’m still not sure how to take that insult.  Whenever I travel to Israel, I am welcomed with open arms and invited to stay in a VIP room at Tel Aviv’s airport.  Sometimes I even get to stay there for five or six hours.  When Americans of Palestinian descent are detained indefinitely and denied entry by Israel, their calls to the American embassy are disregarded.

And of course, America is Israel’s primary financier and defender in the world.  You would think America would support the Palestinians more since Christmas, like July 4, is a federal holiday.  And where was Jesus born?  No, Sarah Palin, not in North Carolina.

I don't really know how to explain how I love the country I live in, even though it's bombing the countries I come from.

I love America… sometimes, I just wish she would love me back.

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* Amer Zahr is a Palestinian American comedian, writer, professor and speaker living in Dearborn, Michigan. He is also the editor of "The Civil Arab."

Comments (10)
  1. You and me both – I wish she would love me back. I kind of wish that it was easier to fit in – I was born here, after all.

  2. Awesome….brother…..awesome…..finally an entertainer besides myself with some knowledge….who speaks up….& makes it count….without being vicious! !…I know I love America, but sometimes it’s hard….yes!

  3. Very well said Amer!

  4. Well done Amer, for a Palestinian that is. LOL! Not only are you a talented performer, but like so many of your Palestinian compatriots and some of my closest friends, you Arabs have set the standard for intellect and stamina for the rest of us Arabs to follow. Keep up the great work and we look forward to your performances and now your writings.

    Your fans,
    Ron & Mona Amen

  5. janet amighi ... July 5th, 2012 - 17:42

    Well said Amer. but the jinns are encouraging me to take the other side-
    We are after all by far one of the best superpowers in our behavior towards immigrants. We might try to dominate the world and play ball with bloody dictators, but at home here, we are pretty fine fellows. Your mistake is to have a relationship with this dear country while you are outside of it. Then, you are subject to drones (of the flying type as well as the office types). They know not what they do, for their brains, to the extent that they exist, are controlled by external forces.

    janet

  6. Sometimes it is indeed hard. Too much knowledge (suffering of the Palestinians in the Middle East) coupled with the guilty desire to enjoy the fruits of this American life (again with the awareness of the suffering of the Palestinians…oh and the native Americans…and the early American slaves…)makes for an existence of internal conflict. Call me pessimistic but unless you make a decision to put Palestine out of your mind – forever – it’s hard to break free of the cycle.

  7. Stephanie Hamilton ... July 8th, 2012 - 03:34

    I agree with the unjust treatment of Palestinians in Israel. Also how Muslims are totally misrepresented or maligned by the Main Stream Media in the US.

    However I don’t think this comparison can be made with the Native Americans who were 18 million strong when European settlers came to the continent. As far as the Native American treatment goes by the early settlers, there has been quite a lot of misrepresentation of that in our Government Schools. There were of course times of conflict and breaking of peace treaties on both sides. However a lot of the deaths of Native Americans were do to their lack of tolerance to white men’s diseases. Look at the first college charter at Harvard and you will see it was also for the education of Indians. The Indians looked at the tools of the immigrants – agricultural etc, and wanted those and trade their land fairly for those tools.

    English settlers considered themselves more sophisticated than the Natives but it wasn’t a racist attitude. The settlers considered the Natives were darkened by the sun due to their lifestyle and thought of them as of the same race. So it can not be a racist situation.

    As far as your comments about the slavery issue. Remember up until the late 1700s this was the only nation that abolished slavery. Until then the world was one big slave trade. We have turned around this treatment, albeit being slower than one would like. But Liberty has taken it by the horns after 1000s of years.

    i am learning this through the Liberty Classrooms instructed by Tom Woods and others. Libertyclassroom.com

  8. I loved this article, Amer; however, I am thinking to reply with an article that titles: I love the Arab World, but it’s hard, all the time…

  9. Solovey Razboynik ... July 5th, 2013 - 01:00

    Heard and saw much of this essay at the fabulous Amer Zahr show Wednesday 3 July. Hilarious and very tragic at the same time, this insightful viewing of the crimes of the past, the crimes of the present, the values of living together without trying to wipe out the other, the appreciation for democratic values without neglecting to point out the prejudices that still exist in the American society, remembering that at one time everybody was “the other”. We need more of this kind of thinking.


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