Saturday, November 12, 2005

Post-Bombing Reaction (my impressions)

As expected, the last few days have been fairly draining. The night of the bombings (which we heard about at around 10 p.m.), I labored until after 6 a.m. on an article for the Indianapolis Star (to no avail, of course). Will and I have spent most of our time continuing to write, thinking, and getting a sense of the mood here (well, there was also a night of Tunisian food and Jordanian wine). Although I wish I could see Amman, in general, I’ve really tried to take advantage of being in Jordan during their 9/11. I would say that I’ve done that, joining in peace marches, talking with friends and strangers, and watching local TV. I should describe the general mood, as I’ve experienced it.

But please, the last thing I want is for you to make generalizations based only on my impressions. Be careful! Keep in mind, this is Irbid, which prides itself on being “not Amman.” It's sort of like being in Boston on 9/11, as opposed to NYC. That having been said, in some ways, I’m reminded of post-9/11 United States. Jordanian flags are EVERYWHERE, and patriotic songs and programming are quite prevalent. This is really good for people to express pride in their country. But like after 9/11 in the US, it gets a bit problematic when it’s combined with nationalism. As I’ve explained to you all before, the relationship in Jordan between Jordanian-Jordanians and Palestinian-Jordanians is not all butterflies and flowers. I think that many Jordanian-Jordanians consider the Palestinians ungrateful for the citizenship they’ve received. Palestinian-Jordanians, while I’m sure 99% of them love Jordan, are also attached to Palestine. More problematically, there are millions of Iraqis here. They, of course, aren’t integrated into Jordanian society; they’re Iraqis, not Jordanians. While the Palestinian-Jordanians face tensions about loyalty, there is no such tension for Iraqis. They’re refugee Iraqis, who have very little commitment to Jordan, and this is rather obvious in a number of ways. When things calm down in Iraq (if ever), they’ll go home, no doubt.

I think that some Jordanian-Jordanians perceive Wednesday’s bombings as having nothing to do with the 'real' Jordan, but with foreigners and immigrants. This isn't entirely unreasonable, as nearly all of this country's immediate political problems relate to the situation in Israel and the Iraq war. It doesn’t help, of course, that the four bombers were Iraqis and the mastermind, Abu Musab Al-Zarqaqi, a Jordanian in Iraq, is of Palestinian descent. The perception amongst many Jordanian-Jordanians is that most of the problems in Jordanian society result from these groups’ political ambitions, or even cultural flaws. While this certainly has some truth, it’s such human nature! In every society, we hold the other group responsible for our societal problems. Think about our own country; white folks blame black people for all the crime, while the black people blame whites for their poverty. It’s a sad condition, it really is. In Jordan (like in all cases, I guess), I can understand the frustrations from all parties. I just hope that this tragedy doesn’t turn into nationalistic anger. But, it’s hard for me to sense how much of the peace marches and patriotism is directed against (that word is probably too strong) those who aren’t whole-hearted supporters of the Hashemite monarchy (often the Palestinian-Jordanians) and how much of it is pure love of country and hatred of violence. I guess the national slogan of “Jordan First” can be interpreted different ways.

It will be interesting to see if there are any genuine attempts to reanalyze Jordanian foreign policy, especially its support of the Iraq War. At this point, it seems like no, and I'm not certain what the popular will is on that. If there were, however, that would have serious consequences for the US. Once the anger with Zarqawi and Al-Qaeda die down, we'll see how the policy discussions develop. At this point, however, the country seems to be united, and I hope that continues.


Blogger matt said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:08 AM

Blogger matt said...

Hey Robin-

this is the first time I have alerted you to the fact, but I am reading your blog fairly regularly. I am glad there is someone writing about situations that are easy to armchair-quarterback in the US. There are so many people here (and we are still doing it even since you left) that like to run off all the reasons they see things are going wrong in the world, but there is rarely accountability or moderation or wisdom for their words.

Please keep posting and let Johanna and I know if there is any way that we could come visit while you are in Jordan (and how much it would cost, it may not be possible).

Best- Matt Poole

11:10 AM

Blogger katherine said...

hey bobo! i'd LOVE to talk on the phone soon! how do we make that happen?

3:35 PM


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