A British tourist in the Oberoi Trident hotel during the attacks in India told BBC that the terrorists attacking the building asked: “Where are you from? Are there any British or Americans here? Show us your ID.”
It is an unfortunate fact of today’s world that Americans are now despised around the world. Our war in Iraq has enraged the Middle East and upset people around the world. And since 9/11 it is quite clear to Americans that there are terrorists for whom “American” is a word that inspires hatred and violence.
Now, the attacks in India again show that terrorism may occur anywhere at any time, and that too often Americans are the intended targets, and now the British too, probably because they joined forces with us in the Iraq war. Only time will tell which terrorist group attacked India and if they are linked to Al Qaeda, which would explain why the young attackers seemed intent on capturing Americans. Terrorists create terror and once again the world is transfixed watching the images of violence from an attack. The pictures from India are heartbreaking. An Indian cop is tenderly giving water to a young child whose face is covered with blood, a reporter stands outside a hotel aflame, orange streaks of fire against the dark night sky, and a hotel lobby is strewn with large patches of blood, its old world elegance marred by modern terrorism. Children have died in this attack, adults were shot in the head, and the entire city of Mumbai must be in shock and terror.
In times that seem quite distant now, before 9/11, when I was abroad I liked to wear a t-shirt or a tote bag with some American insignia like the flag. I always get a little homesick while traveling and towards the end of a trip I might be stepping out wearing something to proclaim my nationality. That is over now and forever. It will never again seem wise to announce I am an American.
Even long ago sometimes it made me nervous when someone commented on my nationality. My Mother and I were once waiting to cross the street in London. I lived in a different state from her and we were catching up on chatting in person. A man next to us, a quite handsome looking Middle Eastern man said to us: “Oh, you are American.”
We had a brief chat about his heritage in Egypt and mine from Lebanon and then when he asked us to join him for tea I started to feel uncomfortable and dragged my Mother away. She was by that point talking to him about how he missed his Mother in Egypt and she was like “Julia, you need to flirt more, you are never going to get married.” I told her I preferred to flirt in the safety of America. It was not long after the downing of a plane by terrorists and I was a bit skittish about strangers from the Middle East. Even with my Arab heritage, I am wary of possible danger.
That made me feel sad, but then again I had my Mom in a foreign country and I was responsible for her. It seemed best to head along to the thrift shop we were headed to because some time before I had noticed it sold cute Christmas ornaments.
And now, seeing all the pictures of the traumatized people in Mumbai running for their lives brings back so many images of 9/11. It also reminds me of the slight feeling of fear I had that day on the street in London. It is an unpleasant feeling indeed to think that one could be targeted due to being an American.
The attacks rage on in India. There are still believed to be hostages in the hotels. The world is praying for their safety and now Thanksgiving will forever be linked to the images of violence in India.
It is time for change in America. The last eight years have inflamed so much hatred to America. Now it seems, in any foreign city, in any better hotel where American business people and tourists congregate, there may be attacks. There may always be terrorists eager to seize Americans abroad. That is an alarming thought.