Washington DC – December 2, 2009 (Farid Ghadry Blog) — An interesting short article appeared in the Israeli Haaretz newspaper written by Amir Oren detailed the descriptive labels U.S. Army ground forces Lt. Col. Brian L. Steed attributed to Americans and Arabs because of his experience in the Middle East.
In short, he said that Americans are goal and task oriented. Precision calculations in which accomplishments are measured by the day drive their enterprises. But the Arabs, Oren cites Steed, are more concerned with the building blocks of their webs.
“The spider sees success as directly associated with his web in terms of its strength, size, location and effectiveness” — Lt. Col. Brian L. Steed.
Having crossed the bridge to live as an American while keeping most of my Arab values intact, I concur with Steed’s assessment. One cannot help but ask the question: Why?
What are the circumstances and factors leading to the accurate description of Steed. Because for some of us Arab-Americans, who adapted to bee-like values, these are essential questions to ask.
And although bees are concerned more with collecting pollen, they are also willing to share their sweet honey with everyone. Historically, the US has shared its sweet honey with the Middle East in grander proportions than most realize .
If one tallies the dollar amount in aid that has been devoted by the US to assist the Arab countries since WWII, one would find that tens of billions of dollars, if not hundreds, have poured into infrastructure, economic development, education, democracy and governance, and public or private partnerships projects in all the Arab-speaking countries.
Even Hamas-led Gaza, the arch-enemy of the US leading the choir with “Death to America”, has received more than $16m in humanitarian assistance to Palestinians since Dec. 2008. There is no country on this planet that is more generous with its honey than the US is.
Further thoughts on the spider analogy are also as revealing. We, Arabs, are elaborately more concerned with the art of springing our webs, if we are in power, than building an industrious community. The very nature of our own governance dictates a spider-like behavior. So by clinging, like spiders, to an illegal governance Arab rulers would certainly be unable to earn by merit under normal circumstances, they become the spiders they are.
Therefore, one cannot blame the 300 million strong Arab mass, as a result of “life inside the web”, for seeing the world from the narrow prism of conspiracies, intrigue, and combines. Arabs express their very own existence caught in the grasp of the spider. They, after all, are the product of their own environment.
If Americans are bees and Arabs are spiders, the best label to describe an Arab-American more enthralled with the benefactor role of the bee than the illicit behavior of a spider is carrier-bee.
The majority of Arab-Americans either support the spider’s web back home by subscribing to organizations built like webs across the seas to catch either the ignorant or the willing (American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee comes to mind) or we are independent-minded and find refuge in total integration and assimilation. Very rare are carrier-bee Arab-Americans who find it their duty to build a community of bees back home because most know the chances are high they will perish trying when caught by the spider’s web.
And when we do not perish, we become escape artists. Escaping the reality of our Gargantuan undertaking and the web’s attractiveness. Escaping those who talk of honey but stealthily promote the spider’s web. Escaping the visionless politicians who only think of this month poll results (That’s why I admire ex-VP Dick Cheney because he never worried about polls). Escaping those who view the world as pluses and minuses on their resumes. Escaping those who adapt to corruption and champions its cause indirectly by appeasing. Escaping those who engage with the spider by wasting their honey. Escaping those who believe the spider has a useful role even though it surrounds their beehive.
Hope, optimism, and the belief in something greater than oneself drive us in the opposite direction of winds and tides; and it is all worth it because on a clear day, you see and touch a vision the rest of the world repeatedly fails to recognize, one that hums with industrious bees and where spiders dwelling in dark caves can only catch other spiders.
Eventually, for lack of support for our vision, most of us continue the struggle to build a honeycomb in the old country and, on the plus side, succeed by facilitating for another generation to try it differently after learning from our mistakes.
The history of Europe and Asia (Kings, Monarchs, and Emperors) is testimony to a fact: Accountability morphs a spider into a bee. But for this to happen, Middle East rulers must be held accountable, on behalf of their people, by the US, Europe, and Asia, through deeds rather than words, all the time, every time.
Fighting for self-interest by proxy will spread some uncontrollable virus as witnessed by the over-arching reach of Islamic extremism.