Contributed by Jen Herz. Check out more of their posts from this summer here.

How would I define myself?

Female. White. American. Anyone could ascertain my belonging to these groups simply based on my appearance and speech. However, just because I am a constituent doesn’t mean I’m an absolute representative. I can’t speak on the opinions of all females, whites, or Americans because I am only one. Therefore, I don’t typify the entire group I simply represent a tiny fraction of the base. Then why am I continually put into a box as an American who is assaulted simply because of her nationality?

Compared to other countries of the world American history spans an infinitesimal portion of modern history. Nevertheless, our history is fraught with controversy and contention. Commonly known as the “world’s police officer” after World War Two the United States adopted a interventionist policy that has extended well into the 21st century. Some of the countries we’ve placed ground troops in include Vietnam, Iran, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan (just to name a few.) I’m nearly positive that if you asked any American about his or her opinion on ALL of United States interventions that he or she would not whole heartedly agree with every single one. Personally, for reasons that cannot be adequately explored in this post I vehemently disagreed with our involvement in Iraq, but find myself believing that an Afghani intervention was necessary.

How does this relate to the work I am doing here in Belgrade? Monday through Friday I work with refugees, mainly from Afghanistan and Pakistan, fleeing heart-breaking conditions in their home countries. Why did they leave? Poverty, violence, and war are all common answers. But what caused these circumstances? The answer is complex and most certainly not known. Could the wars the United States raged in the Middle East be a contributing factor? Of course, but it obviously isn’t the only answer. Other conditions include faltering economies and increasing Islamic extremism. Furthermore, when America made these interventionist decisions I was completely detached from US policymaking. I didn’t even have the power to vote until a year and a half ago. So stop telling me I am responsible for your countries downfall, to burn the white house, and kill the President of my beloved country. I am here to help, not to be criticized.


One thought on “Identity

  1. This is such a thoughtful meditation on how you can get an identity even if you don’t want it and if you have no personal connection with it at all. Remember Bosnia/ Yugoslavia in your list of US interventions. You work with refugees from current crisis areas, but if you walk by the Parliament, you will see angry denunciations of US policy — i.e. the US planes that flew NATO bombing missions over Kosovo and Serbia — including Belgrade. Normally soldiers who die in a war are called “heroes.” The photos of the men who died fighting in Kosovo and in the NATO air war are called “victims” which makes it seem as if the Serbian government had no role in the fighting. And as if the dead were civilians. These comments are just a side bar to your observations about the complexity of identity and nationality.
    You’re doing an amazing job facing down angry young men’s and boys’ hostility! Good Luck.


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