April 08, 2006

What do they say about us?

I went to a meeting for parents at Fredrik's school last week. There is a new student in class 2b whose family comes from Iraq. At the meeting her mother said thank you to everyone for making her daughter feel welcome in the new school. After the meeting (a. The school librarian told us the plots of 7 children's stories and encouraged us to read to our kids. b. The teacher told us how at the start of the school year they read about the creation of the Universe from Genesis and that now they are making a time line of the Universe starting with the Big Bang-- they had a fingerpainted timeline on the bulliten board, looked pretty cool, and the teacher complained that all the interesting stuff happens right at the end. c. I gave a summary of the paren't council meeting-- one parent is writing a letter to the editor asking for the speed limits around the school to be enforced; another parent complained that the cafeteria gives the same size portions to all kids from preschoolers to fifth grade boys; one mother's son was coming home famished after eating a school lunch that only contained 5 or at most 7 meatballs; at home he eats 15 to 20...)...after the meeting, the Iraquian mother comes up to me and asks me where I'm from. America I reply, and wait. She told me that she had mixed feelings about the Bush administration, and I agreed. Then she told me how much she loves America, and that her sister is married to an American and they live in Colorado, and that she will be visiting them this summer! She was so excited.

My friends and family always ask me, 'What do they say about us over there!?' And these are some of my experiences.

I was at the lunchtable in Copenhagen last week talking with some students and colleagues, including on this day a student whose family moved to Denmark from Iran when she was a teenager. She was telling us about her many cousins who live in Iran. One of her cousins had participated in the student protests at the University of Tehran a few years ago, but then the soldiers started shooting people, and so the protests stopped. Some family members living in Iran said to her that the best thing that could happen to their country would be if the US were to invade it. As it is now, they are forbidden to leave the country, and all news comes through government channels. She has many stories of government corruption. I couldn't help thinking of that class I took in High School from Sarah Foreman, Utopia, where we read Orwell's 1984. How to overthrow Big Brother? Well one solution would have been to invite invasion by the US by letting it be known that the government was trying to figure out how to make nuclear weapons. And, it doesn't hurt if your government is threatening to wipe its neighbors off the map.


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