Thursday, November 30, 2006
Today, or rather yesterday now, I received a letter from Mona in Qatar. (Do you know where Qatar is?) I was her assignment in Swap-bot's "A Letter For Me #8". Her letter took two weeks to arrive here, but it was fascinating reading and worth the wait. (Thank you, Mona, for the interesting letter about yourself and the area of Doho, Qatar where you live.)
What was most fascinating is the map of the State of Qatar that she sent to me. I was struck by how modern the place was and how, except for the obvious middle eastern names on the streets and some of the buildings, this could have been America for all its recreational and business similarities. I wondered why its modernness should surprise me, and I concluded that it was because the media here in the USA never shows these industrious and modern places in the Middle East. We're shown pictures of deserts, and if we're shown towns, it's normally after some bomb blast and the town really just looks dusty and dirty (what micromanaged area the media tends to photograph, that is). When are we ever shown the prominent and "normal" city photos. The pictures of golf courses (yes! golf courses!), zoos, motorcycle racing arenas, the camel races (but of course!), the stud farms (and I'm not talking about men, or wood, here), the shopping malls, department stores, car rentals, cinemas, hotels, restaurants, etc.? Ok, sure, I'm specifically referring to Qatar's resources, but Qatar is located between Saudi Arabia and Iran with the Arabian Gulf separating Qatar from Iran, and I doubt very much that Qatar's wealth in recreational and economic facilities is exclusive.
My husband and I were actually quite fascinated with the map and how "normal" the State of Qatar appears. Now the map does say that Qatar is an Islamic state, but that is not a surprise to me. I almost would expect any Middle Eastern country to be predominately Islamic. But then, perhaps that's just a view formed by the the limited and manipulated image I'm fed by our media of the Middle East. Are ALL middle-eastern countries Islamic? Well, obviously not...Israel isn't!
I am really struck by how narrow-minded I am of the Middle Eastern world and its richness. When I think of the Middle East, I think "Islam, terrorists, kidnappings, beheadings..." Most assuredly this view comes from the images and reports I hear on our American news stations and papers. Now I don't watch a lot of news or read newspapers daily. I may glance at any source of news occasionally, but I don't get a regular diet of it. I choose not to because I know how manipulative the media is and biased its reporting no matter who or what they're reporting. There's always an agenda. My limited viewing is probably also due to a comment I'll never forget a writer had said "Control what people read, and you control how they think..." Yes, there's definitely an agenda out there.
Now having said that about our American media, I'm aware that it is most likely a common condition of any media force in the world. Some countries, if not all, have certain censorship of information and control of what information they want their people to see and hear, too. I would be fascinated actually to go to a Middle Eastern country and see how America is portrayed and reported in their local news. I've heard varying reports that certain areas hate America and also that the people in areas love America. So I guess it really does depend on from whom you get your news what information you will be fed. I tend to believe less what our media tells us about the rest of the world's view on America (that the rest of the world hates America). Sure I believe there are groups out in the world that dislike America, but I would venture to say that it is a minority and they're 'sensationalized' by our media and portrayed to represent a larger segment of the population than they really are. "The squeaky wheel gets the grease" is how the saying goes, and it's generally a true statement. Those who cry out the loudest against America are the ones who are heard.
I would venture to guess that the world probably is not as hateful towards America as our news would have us believe. I certainly am not hateful towards any country out there in the world. I'm most wary of the Middle East, of all the countries out there, but isn't that wariness and thought a product of the news that I'm exposed to? Wasn't there a time when America was taught to be afraid of Russia and that's all the news seemed to report? And sure there are real dangers out in the world, and certain countries come to the forefront throughout the generations, but isn't it often dramatized depending where you are and from whom you're hearing the news? Yes, there are nuclear bombs out there. Yes, there is biochemical warfare out there. But are we really so naive not to think that the USA doesn't have their hands in the "dangers", too? We're being shown all the dangers out in the world outside our beloved country, but if we looked in our own neighborhood, in our own capital cities, I bet we'd be surprised to see just how much of that dangerous world is actually within our own borders. America is a beautiful and blessed country. I'm so proud to have been born and raised here. But I'm also aware that we're not totally innocent though we point our fingers towards those outside our borders. We have our own share of sins. Every country does.
My point really is not to bash the media (thank the Lord for the news media where we can know some of what's going on around the world! Our world is expanded!), but to just say that I'm just awed by how "just like us" and 'normal' the Middle Eastern State of Qatar is. How similar our recreations and business are. How similar I'd venture the people are to us. I'd actually be interested in traveling to Qatar! But then I'd have to submit to the required vaccinations to get a US Passport to travel outside our country...
And that's another post.
And probably one that won't get posted, so don't be sitting by eagerly waiting to read what I might have to say about that... ;)