It has been exactly five weeks since I first landed at Dulles international airport in Virginia. When I first saw “Dulles” I wondered: what am I doing in Texas? Now I know why Americans have spelling bees… Anyways, soon I was reminded that whether you’ve landed in Dulles or Dallas, the way you look determines the treatment you receive.
Yesterday, American citizens from different faiths and origins, came together and held a vigil at DuPont Circle in remembrance of Nabra Hassanein, a Muslim American teenager who was assaulted, possible raped, and beaten to death after leaving a mosque in Fairfax, Virginia. I don’t know the last time I saw a homosexual activist deliver a speech among a crowd of Muslims and receive applause and cheers. I don’t recall the last time I saw Jewish fellas wearing Yamakas and wandering through a Muslim vigil holding candles and slogans of support. This does not happen, even in Israel, an undeservedly labeled “democracy”. Even if a diverse group does gather extremist citizens will attack their siblings-in-faith for sympathizing with “Muslim terrorists”. I don’t recall ever seeing any of this unity because, simply, it never happens anywhere else besides America, especially not in the war-torn Middle-East.
Yesterday’s vigil, for some, was an obligation to stand for their sister-in-faith, for others it was an occasion to exhibit their support to minorities. For me it was a re-imagining of the US as an idea. For me America is not “a country” but rather an idea, a mentality and a refuge to those who became sick of populist nationalism and rising extremism. A hate-crime will forever be a sad demonstration of what one human being is capable of doing, but such gatherings of remembrance that celebrate differences will stick in my memory as what America ought to be like.