A Mosaic of Arab Culture at Home in America – New York Times
Posted On October 25, 2005
An interesting article from the New York Times. I’ve always contended that the periods of ‘melting pot’ growth and maturity in America are a direct result of the wars we fought. I contend still that wars suck….but I probably wouldn’t be able to enjoy Pho so easily if we hadn’t of become embroiled in a land war in Southeast Asia. Certainly if it weren’t for WWII and America’s occupation and restructuring of Japan, I wouldn’t be listening to a Sony Walkman or going to Ninja Sushi….or maybe I would…anyway, my thought is that when we fight wars with other cultures, we become more aware of those cultures and they become more of a part of us. Seriously, how many people would have understood the difference between a Sunni and a Shia a few years ago, let alone what Tikrit, Fallujah, and Sadr City were. And it’s not just the place names. I’ve read that since the first Gulf War, soldiers who have served in Iraq are often converting to Islam. And when do we start seeing the Iraqi war brides. I’m sure there are already some….Anyway, the whole point of this rant is that the American culture is undergoing an enrichment at the moment. It is a renaissance that is bringing an awareness of exotic beauty into the heart of our country. Even if a lot of that beauty is already here…. Enough, I am falling asleep at the keyboard and it is time to go to sleep….here are a few excerpts and a picture…read the article though…it’s good.
The 38,500-square-foot, $16 million Arab American National Museum, which opened in May, is, like other museums of American hyphenation, at once an assertion of difference and of belonging, a declaration of distinction and of loyalty. It would be making a political statement even if it weren’t directly across the street from City Hall.
“The museum was built to tell our story,” Dr. Ameri explained before leading a critic on a tour. “But before we can tell our story, we have to know what the Arab-American story is.”
“People don’t know” was a recurring refrain in these consultations, Dr. Ameri said. “People don’t know” about who we are, went the complaint. So the museum includes a handsome library and an exhibit chronicling the arrival of Arabs on American shores, including such unusual figures as Hadj Ali, a 19th-century Syrian immigrant recruited by the United States to train camels for the Western deserts.
“People don’t know” about Arab contributions to civilization, continued the refrain, so surrounding the central courtyard are display cases summarizing achievements of early Arab civilization; or about everyday life, so another exhibit shows how typically American Arab-Americans have become; or about their accomplishments, so another display shows Arab-Americans in politics (John Sununu), political activism (Ralph Nader), literature (Kahlil Gibran), journalism (Helen Thomas), movies (William Peter Blatty) and opera (Rosalind Elias).