Just earlier this week, President Trump vetoed a congress resolution to end military sales to Saudi Arabia for warfare against Yemen. If the veto is not overturned by congress, the United States will continue to contribute to what is being called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis to-date.
Notable politicians, such as Senator Bernie Sanders, have thankfully begun to focus on these issues to educate the public and end the war in Yemen. However, Saudi Arabia’s devastating warfare was supported by the United States government under most Americans’ noses since 2004. And the delayed attention received by the public is by no means the first time United States involvement in the Middle East has been ignored. Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria are only the most obvious examples.
There are numerous possible explanations for why there is such little reaction for issues in the Middle East. Mainly, it might be due to poor success regarding cultural assimilation. It could be as simple as a lack of something tangible to gain a glimpse into foreign culture. When we see things, use things, or speak to certain people everyday, these experiences become embedded into our memory and we become more emotionally invested in those events which are connected to our experiences.
Sure, in large cities, there are large diverse groups of people who meet each other every day for work or school, and different cultures are intertwined. However, rural America is not exposed to the same cultural influences, and may not be for a long time. The real challenge is how to share foreign cultures with a distant and widespread group of people.
For some cultures, some aspects have been made extremely accessible and therefore have been adopted throughout the United States, regardless of geographical barriers. In turn, that might have had an effect on public view of that respective culture. For instance, Yoga is becoming practiced very commonly in the United States (a practice originating from India), through a variety of businesses. At the same time, the United States has had relatively open immigration policy and fruitful working relationship with India in the past several decades. Similarly, with the advent of the internet, many from recent generations have grown up watching Anime originating from Japan. Coincidentally, the popular public American view of Japan is one of great admiration. Finally, several brand-name alcoholic beverages frequently consumed can be traced to origins of Germany, Ireland, and other European countries, all of which become common tourist destinations for most.
However, the same cannot be said of influences from the Middle East, (at least not just yet). With the exception of the occasional Halal Guys, there are surprisingly few direct influences of Arabic culture on those in suburban / rural parts of the United States, which may be key to why fear and uncertainty of the Middle East runs rampant in the United States.
That being said, if there were art, music, or food from the Middle East that was offered in a more accessible manner to all Americans (not just in large cities) it might have a positive effect on changing public attention towards Middle Eastern affairs, and likewise for other parts of the globe. It just so happens that Sabra Hummus might be leading the way.