Dear Layla

Here in Nablus
Jumana is an inviting, warm, and quiet presence
Yesterday afternoon she said to me with resignation and calm in her eyes:
“We know everything about America
And Americans know nothing about us”

She attends to daily news reports about the U.S. in the Middle East
She knows the particulars of how the United States enables Israel
She sees our movies and our music videos
She gains insight into our values and obsessions

But what do we Americans know of Damascus, or Beirut, or Fez?
How deep is our understanding of our own government’s regional commitment
To funding the mighty, sowing subversion, and flouting international law?
What do we know of Arab culture, Islamic civilization?
Who can name even one contemporary Arab philosopher, two filmmakers, three poets or four singers?
Who among us learns Arabic as an act of intercultural solidarity?

You can say Jumana was guilty of generalizing and exaggerating
But she has a point

And it’s not even that so many of us don’t know
It’s that we don’t know we don’t know



–from Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine

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