I am not my government

When I lived in Turkey, in 2005, the US was pushing for Turkey to acknowledge a certain historical event an a way that Turks saw as biased against them.  I had been living in Izmir long enough to speak passable Turkish, and was regularly invited to my neighbors apartments to eat breakfasts, dinners, have coffee, and pass time with many of them.  One day, one of these neighbors came running up to me as I walked home from work, visibly upset, and began shouting at me in Turkish:  about my government trying to force her government to admit to a crime that had not been a crime.  She went on, quite emotionally and a bit frighteningly to me, as another neighbor came to stand by me, insisting that Turkey was being blamed, set up, or otherwise abused, and apparently blaming me for all of this.   Yet, I had left my own country, as I tried to explain to her, for the very same reasons she was angry with my government:  there was injustice being committed by my government, and I was powerless, as an ordinary citizen, to change that.  More of my neighbors arrived, giving her similar explanations, and comforting both of us as we all walked into our building.  I was stunned that I could be the target of such misplaced anger, apparently simply because I was the only US citizen most of them knew who actually spoke Turkish and lived in a lower middle class Turkish neighborhood, rather than in an expensive expat enclave.

Later, a similar thing happened.    Different country, same idea.

When I lived in England, in either 2006 or 2007 I believe, one day at a gathering, someone walked up to me and introduced herself.  Before I could finish responding with “Hi, my name is,”  she shouted “You’re an American!” turned on her heel, and stormed away, leaving me stunned and saddened.  I had  left my country of origin because of allegations of being “unpatriotic,” “un-American,” and siding with socialists even on the subject of illegal torture always being, well, illegal.  Yet here I was being broadsided by a similar blind hatred based on my national origin, and based on the assumption that I must supposedly agree with the policies of the government of the country in which I was born.

Just recently, online, a person from Bulgaria commented, when I pointed out that she’d misread, or not read, the details and context of a comment I’d written which she was criticizing, ended the exchange by cursing me as a person from “that Trump country America,” etc, apparently conflating my critique of her (lack of) reading, with the fact that I live in the United States, and thus assuming that I must be anti-American.   Yet, nothing could be further from the truth, at least regarding my association with Trump’s policies or presence in government.   Not only did I vote against him, but I spent a great deal of time working to persuade others to do likewise, and to mitigate the results of policies, particularly anti-immigrant policies, implemented by his administration.  (I am, after all, also a volunteer for an organisation that visits detained asylum-seekers…)

Yet, once again, I’ve been relegated to the status of an American who must therefore agree with my current government’s policies, however inaccurate this assumption may actually be.

As with the situation in England and in Turkey, no one  consulted me for my actual opinion on the matter,  but I was automatically the target of anger as a representative of my country of origin, based on a mistaken idea that I must agree with or represent that government.  The irony is that in fact I had left the country, or risked reaching out to someone in another country, precisely because I disagreed and disagree with and refused to fund, via my presence in the country and hence economic support via rent, food expenses, income tax, etc.  My reasons for living in a state that opposes the policies of this administration reflect the same reasons I left in 2004:  it is my duty as a citizen of a republic to uphold the ideals of the republic, even when difficult.  Now, perhaps more than at any other time in history, I feel it my duty to lend my little weight to efforts to change the course of this, my native country, toward the ideals voiced in the Declaration of Independence and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  But no one ever asked me about that.

 

So why do we human beings tend to assume that someone from a particular country must represent or even agree with the person or policies in power at the time?    Why are all people taken to represent the worst in where they come from?  Should we all not take the time to inquire of each person where he or she stands before casting the accusation of collaboration with injustice?

3 thoughts on “I am not my government

  1. I can relate to your experience. Years ago I went with my girlfriend to Jamaica, West Indies her homeland. She told me not to speak too much outside of her family who were glad to have me as a guest. Obviously being Black I could blend in until I opened my mouth. Some Jamaicans at that time were at odds with US policies. Most of my vacation I spent with my girlfriend and Her family who protected me. Also most Jamaicans are friendly and Happy for tourists. Helps their economy. Just goes to show you that People often have Ugly American perceptions. Obviously as a Black Woman I have little control over U.S. government policies. Over my 60 years on this earth white Americans have called me everything but a child of God. Telling me that I should go back to Africa. Actually with What’s happening in the United States that’s a good idea. If I didn’t have to care for my brother Stephen who has Autism I would have left Last Year after I retired.

    In the same vein white Americans often have the idea that Black People are one monolithic block and to this day they are still Guided by negative stereotypes. For the ten years that I worked at the Museum white men propositioned me for either sex or drugs. Or the crazy white People who wanted to touch my hair as though Black folks were petting Zoos. Fortunately I am well able to stand up for myself and my colleagues would back me up. Or I had to go get a supervisor.

    Then there are the dumb people who ask me if my brother Stephen who has Autism is like the character in the movie Rainman or others who told me that my brother Stephen was demon possessed.

    Sad to say that even the most well educated people have that stupidity gene and have signed the Insanity Clause.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yup, as a fellow (light-skinned) black woman, I have had similar experiences, with students especially wanting to touch my hair, being treated by white men as if I obviously wanted to have sex with them, even when I emphatically said no, having to physically defend myself and run away in several cases, being reminded that “the races don’t mix in 1994 Baltimore, reminded not to try to pass in VA, and then told that I have to say I am mixed here in CA, which back in DC, MD and VA, both white folks and black still refer to me as “high yellow.”

      Like

      1. Yes. My Mom and Her Sisters had similar experiences growing up in Jim Crow 1930s 1940s Dayton, Ohio.

        As a Dark Skinned woman I was called Tar Baby and other disgusting names by other Black People. I’ve heard that this is called Colorism. Either way it’s hurtful. My hair was referred to as a brillo pad, Knappy, kinky, anything negative.

        Sometimes you just can’t win but at this point in my life I ignore people, place No value on their opinions and I don’t need or require validation from People.
        However sometimes one feels like you’re fighting within as well as without.

        As for me at age Sixty I only answer to God not other folks ignorance.

        Liked by 1 person

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