Americans make enemies with people over politics

Thursday, October 1, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 5:34 p.m. CDT, Thursday, October 1, 2009

A politically conservative friend was telling me of her newest charge at her church. She will be responsible for the post-service “coffee” hour for the Blessing of the Animals service. We talked about dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, rats and birds. Jokingly I asked about snakes.

She responded, “I don’t do snakes and our minister is not fond of them either.”

“Aren’t snakes considered one of God’s creations?” She answered that they were, but were much like Muslims: You did not have to like them.

I have long believed that the United States cannot survive without an “enemy.” The French, the British, the North or the South (depending on where you lived), the original nations (I am not trying to be politically correct here. “Native Americans” were immigrants from East Asia, the true discovers of the new world.), the Spanish, the Fascists and the Communists. Today, our enemies are al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Iraq and Muslim extremists worldwide.

Since 1979, the list includes Iran. With nuclear processing plants and test firing of missiles, political hawks seem poised to enter yet another war — a war against a government, incidentally, forced by the dictatorial rule of an American puppet to its own revolution and today’s theocratic, Islamic-based government.

It is very unfortunate Americans cannot separate the government from the people.

It is unfortunate that Americans have a tendency to see anyone who “looks” Arab or speaks Arabic or Farsi, or whose religion requires specific dress as “the enemy.”

It is unfortunate that some liberal organizations, like Clean Economy Network, talk of “hostile nations” while showing scenes of a rally in an Islamic nation.

Rick Steves is a friend of mine. Not really a friend — I never met him. However, when I need to get out of the house on a rainy afternoon, I seek out Steves’ PBS travelogue and enjoy a trip to wherever. His insights open our eyes to the cultures, traditions, languages and people that represent the great mosaic of nations.

Travel as a Political Act” is Steves’ newest guidebook. Steves’ travel is a learning tool to understand that people are people regardless of their nationality or religion or both. He devotes a full chapter to Iran.

Over the years, I have had students and friends representing more than 60 nations and an untold number of languages and beliefs. Steves and I have come to the same conclusion: The “average” person from any nation, friend or foe, likes Americans but not the American government. Unlike Americans, they seem to separate the two.

On June 19, Steves told Tavis Smiley, “As we Americans travel, we need to broaden our perspective.” That Americans “find certain truths to be self-evident and God-given. But other affluent and well-educated people and others find different truths to be self-evident and God-given.”

Americans do not hold the market on truth, justice or, for that matter, God.

One Iranian student emigrated from Iran in 1996, when the new regime was working through the entanglements of running a state and a war with Iraq. He does not believe he is an Iranian but a Persian. He introduced me to Denver’s Persian/Iranian communities and to the world of Islam. His sister gave me my Quran.

Most Iranians citizens do not consider Jews or Christians "the enemy.” They (do I dare say “we”?) are people of the Book, as are Muslims. The Iranian citizen sees the American and Israeli governments as the enemy. Yes, Jews and Christians are second-class citizens in Iran, but so are Muslims who are not Shia. Though Iran has a theocratic and, some think, a repressive government, Steves makes the point that while in Iran he did not hear the calls to prayer as he did in secular Morocco and Turkey.

Americans need to understand that we are not the center of the universe. That people are essentially the same no matter language, nationality or beliefs. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is a “universal” truth; however, the road to that truth takes each person, religion and nation on a different path. That travel as a political act is “Zen and the art of peace making.”

David Rosman is an award-winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. He welcomes your comments at

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