A strange occurrence happened to me the other day. I was sitting in the Bon with my close friends eating lunch as we always do. Somehow we started talking about some international issue…I can’t remember which. One of my friends made a comment about how we’re America, this issue shouldn’t touch us. I asked him why not and he said, “We’re America! Not some weird foreign country!”
And I could feel my heart break.
Recently in my blog I wrote: “How strange it is to have your heart torn between multiple places, to feel like you belong in more than one world.”
Some weird foreign country. Those four words sent chills up and down my spine and made me angry, indignant, hurt, and protective all at the same time. My mind spurred on with comebacks and quizzes, lists of ways that those weird foreign countries were in fact, not weird at all.
But my mind went faster than my voice and all I could do was stare at my friend, my jaw hanging open, a disappointed frown on my face. I threw a cracker at him, wishing that I had a more mature response. He blinked a couple times as if knowing that what he had said had done something to me and then continued on in a different conversation unaware of the violence of my feelings. And I didn’t have the heart to tell him.
I was swept away to a different place. While my body sat in the plastic chair, at a plastic table, eating more food than I even need, off a plastic tray, my mind hopped on a flight to Dubai. My mind’s eye raced through the Dubai airport remembering distinctly the exact pattern of the glass overhangs, the smell of perfume stores and the sound of hundreds of different languages clashing into music around me. I continued on to another flight, another city: Dhaka.
I saw the run down buildings and streets. The lack of power tools or organized power lines. The colors all around me on the billboards, the food, the clothes. The smell of sweet mishti combined with the horrible sewage. I could feel my typical jeans and t-shirt be replaced with the soft cotton and billowy presence of salwar kameez and my demeanor change from one lost in her own country, to that of one who knows where she belongs in the world.
This weird foreign country that my heart ran to is Bangladesh. Bangladesh, the beautiful country where men and women still have arranged marriages, where women are still figures more than actual human beings. Where beggars without limbs or eyes or with severe cases of elephantitus roam the streets, hoping for money to report back to their boss. The wicked cruel side of a beautiful country.
The beautiful country where sheep and goats roam the streets, where everyone is smiling and asking how you are or where you’re from or why you’re here and all the children are running next to your car because it’s something exciting for them to see the oddity of a white woman wondering through their rural countryside. If anywhere is the middle of nowhere, disconnected and apart from the world, frozen in time, it would be in rural Bangladesh.
This weird foreign country where my lens of the world and way I see it was actualized; Bangladesh is where it became real. Where the ways I KNEW the world was different, were now memories in my mind, not just a picture I had seen on a screen.
And maybe that’s why my friend’s comment broke me so much. America is the land of the free and the home of the brave, yes. But we are one country in a world of many. We are but one culture, one ideology, one government in a world where truth is found in diversity and depth is found in the simplest of acts. The simple becomes the complex and the hardships become beautiful in light of the fact that throughout this whole world, America is only a part of a much bigger picture. How can we truly understand ourselves, why we are here, what we’re supposed to believe without seeing the world in its holistic beauty?
Because the truth is, God IS. Everywhere, all the time. He created this world, called it good and sacrificed the most important thing in the history of forever for this world. Yes we’re a sinful people, every single one of us, whether we are American or Bangladeshi or Japanese or Canadian or French or Brazilian or Pakistani. Nationality does not dictate our worth. The world is so much bigger than our small scale view of our cookie-cutter suburban neighborhoods. Anywhere, USA, could literally be anywhere. You’ll still run into the Gap, Pottery Barn and Wal-mart. The God of the universe DIED for all of us whether or not we can get all our shopping done in one stop. The land of the free and home of the brave does not privilege us to a higher form of salvation. America has it’s own set of problems, many of which could be argued are worse than women who still have a dress code in their country.
The world is made up of weird foreign countries. And America, to everyone else is another weird foreign country. And all of us weird foreign countries make up a world full of people that God loves, that God created. He calls us to love one another. Shall we love the weird foreign country that dictates it’s citizen’s marriages, or number of children, or media consumption or religion or freedoms? Yes. The world is full and rich and beautiful because God made it so. To live without seeing the variety and the depth is to live blind and naïve.
That is why I’m a liberal. That is why I’m a Christian. That is why I worship the God that I do. Because he said he loves the world. And if a Creator can love his Creation (because all good artists never seem to like their own works) than I can love this crazy mixed up world of weird foreign countries. Because I am a part of this world and I belong in all of them.