Thursday, December 25, 2008

An Afghani helped me realize something

Something happened this morning that got me thinking how us "westerners" worry about the possibility of offending others because their culture or religion may be different than ours. I’ve seen this in our schools and in our government, so everyone is appeased. "Shhh, can't say or do that, it might offend!"

What brought this up? I've enjoyed learning a little of the Dari language so I can communicate with the translators and Local National’s (LNs). LNs are provided jobs on base so as to help stimulate their personal and their country’s economy. I see a particular group of LNs daily and greet them as best I can in their language. They grin because they know I am trying to learn and of course they help me out with pronunciation.

Today, Christmas Day, at work I saw one of the LNs. With a smile and a hanshake, I greeted him “Merry Christmas!” That’s how we do it in the US, right? It’s ingrained in us. Guess what the LN did? He smiled, shook my hand back and greeted me. No scowl, no offense, no ACLU threat from him, just a simple eye to eye, knowing smile of acceptance and friendship.

At first, after we parted, I thought to myself “What did I just say to him?” He’s a - drum roll please - Muslim! It goes beyond that. I've noticed that as much as I want to learn about their culture, they also want to learn about ours.

The LN's concern is about surviving both economically and physically, there is no concept of being PC here. Unless, you call doing what you have to do to not be murdered by the Taliban a form of political correctness. For me, in a deployed environment, I needed to share this thought on Christmas Day. Merry Christmas! Salam Alai Kum, Tashakur.

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