While driving through south-central Jakarta, a massive protest, known as “Quds Day,” was marching down the street. (“Quds” is the Arabic names for the city of Jerusalem, and “Bebaskan” means liberate, or free in Bahasa Indonesia.) It didn’t look too rowdy, but I was definitely glad that I was on the bus, and not on the street. (In fact, our destination seemed to also be the destination of the protest, so we decided to go there on a different day…)
Quds day is an annual Iranian pro-Palestinian day of protest. It always falls on the last day of Ramadan, and it is protested by a lot of other Muslim countries. Since Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world, it is no surprise that there were protests in the largest city of that country.
My intention isn’t to share my position on the topic of the Palestinian- Israeli conflict. Rather, I wanted to take a moment to write about… well, I don’t quite know. America, I guess.
In recent months, as I pondered over my imminent expatriation, I read a lot about Indonesia’s politics, culture, and general information about what it’s like to live in a country you obviously aren’t from. I re-read an article that I (kinda) like, and reflected on one particular statement.
“Despite the occasional eye-rolling, and complete inability to understand why anyone would vote for George W. Bush, people from other countries don’t hate us either. In fact — and I know this is a really sobering realization for us — most people in the world don’t really think about us or care about us. I know, that sounds absurd, especially with CNN and Fox News showing the same 20 angry Arab men on repeat for ten years straight. But unless we’re invading someone’s country or threatening to invade someone’s country (which is likely), then there’s a 99.99% chance they don’t care about us…
Americans tend to assume that the rest of the world either loves us or hates us (this is actually a good litmus test to tell if someone is conservative or liberal). The fact is, most people feel neither. Most people don’t think much about us.
Remember that immature girl in high school, who every little thing that happened to her meant that someone either hated her or was obsessed with her; who thought every teacher who ever gave her a bad grade was being totally unfair and everything good that happened to her was because of how amazing she was? Yeah, we’re that immature high school girl.”
While I found this to be true when I visited Indonesia (most people, upon realizing I was American and not Australian, would say, “Obama! He lived in Indonesia, did you know?”), this hasn’t always been the situation. Perhaps for countries that don’t hold such a large number of Muslim people, there is more ambivalence towards America. I am sure that in Sweden or England or Guatemala, for example, people don’t think about America any more than Americans think of them. And, day-to-day, I am sure that Indonesians don’t think about America, either.
As you can see from the photos, most of the flags and posters are about Palestine, but there were a few signs and shouts about the United States. Specifically, signs that said “Hancur America,” which is loosely translated into “Fall to pieces, America!”
I still don’t know what this post is about, but I suppose I just wanted to let you know that, while many Americans choose to be ignorant of the ramifications of government interventions in other countries, those countries and their brothers and sisters aren’t ignorant, and haven’t forgotten. We shouldn’t underestimate people (let’s remember the Arab Spring) or the power of sustained distain in our world.