Rabat - As reported by Morocco World News last month, a Moroccan, working in the U.S. as a taxi driver, was called a “terrorist” and worse by a group of his customers. His feelings were hurt and he became angry and afraid. He responded by calling the police for help. However, when they responded, he found them to be far from helpful. He said that as he tried in vain to explain the situation from his point of view, the police became agitated, treated him badly and were mean to him.
Rabat – As reported by Morocco World News last month, a Moroccan, working in the U.S. as a taxi driver, was called a “terrorist” and worse by a group of his customers. His feelings were hurt and he became angry and afraid. He responded by calling the police for help. However, when they responded, he found them to be far from helpful. He said that as he tried in vain to explain the situation from his point of view, the police became agitated, treated him badly and were mean to him.
More recently, in Ferguson, Missouri, U.S., during a public protest, two police officers were ambushed and shot. The shooting left one officer with a shoulder wound and another with a bullet lodged in his head. Some people, whom others have labelled as “police haters,” then used their twitter and social media accounts to share their approval of and happiness about these shootings.
In both of these instances, people from around the world might say that these labels, tweets and comments were hateful. But in the U.S., making unpopular, oppositional and disagreeable statements is simply a part of American culture. And, although this freedom to speak openly is very important to Americans, it can also be very hard to understand from an outside point of view.
The authors of this piece are Americans, but having lived in Morocco for over two years, we now feel partly Moroccan. Our hands-on, multi-cultural experience has provided greater evidence of the huge impact that culture plays in how a person interprets what (s)he hears or sees. A clear case in point is the Moroccan taxi driver’s point of view of the statements made by his American patrons.
The issue of perception can be better understood by looking at differences between Moroccan and American culture. In our observations, Morocco is a culture of relative sameness, although tolerance of others exists. More specifically, Moroccans seem mostly peaceful, religious, modest and family-oriented. Most relevant to this article is the fact that Moroccans appear to go out of their way not to offend or make statements that might be hurtful to others.
On the other hand, America is a “melting pot,” which means that people of different religions, language, clothing styles, and daily rituals live side-by-side. The U.S. is the opposite of a land of relative sameness. And in fact, it is the population’s diversity that is one of the cornerstones of America’s uniqueness in the world.
This diversity also means that starkly and passionately different beliefs and opinions exist in one place. These beliefs and opinions might be spoken, written or even portrayed in controversial cartoons. They often hurt people’s feelings, can be disrespectful and sometimes directly call into question another person’s intelligence, sanity or faith. Even “hate speech” is not against the law in the U.S. unless it asks people to commit physical violence.
We wrote this article so that the taxi driver and others like him might better understand our culture, as it pertains to freedom of speech in America. Whether you visit America or read about her or the opinions of her citizens, remember that speaking whatever is on one’s mind is a cultural foundation upon which the country was built.
However, the freedom to express one’s self in words without penalty comes with a cost. The Moroccan taxi driver paid that cost, and as a result, felt he was the victim of something unfair and unjust. His reaction and feelings were understandably a result of his own, unique cultural background. But, as Americans reared within American culture, we easily accept that hurt feelings are often the price for being able to say whatever we choose.
There is a popular English proverb that states, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.” Perhaps those who wish to visit or live within the American culture should carefully consider these words before taking that leap.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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