- Published on Thursday, 13 September 2012 14:42
- Written by Sara Nunnally, Editor, Inside Investing Daily
- Hits: 647
The world is changing fast. Anger is raging, and Americans are in the crossfire.
Several years ago -- seven, now that I think about it -- I started traveling to emerging markets, looking for the best investment opportunities.
It was really a fantastic part of my job. I got to meet so many people, from investor relations teams to tourists, to locals with strong opinions on their economies. One of my first trips was to Spain and Morocco.
At that point, I'd never been to Africa, let alone a North African country with a strong Arab population.
As you can imagine, in 2006 and 2007, the world opinion of Americans was very mixed, and I had no idea what to expect.
On the train into Casablanca, I'd hooked up with a local woman who had dual citizenship in Spain and Morocco. We sat next to each other, while across from me was a Berber man and across the aisle was an Arab woman in a burka.
The talk turned to politics and Saddam Hussein and the war in Iraq, and I know it was my presence that sparked the heated debate.
America's politics reach into a lot of corners, from the short train to Casablanca to one of the biggest squares in Florence, Italy.
One of my last trips took me from Venice to Cinque Terre, to Florence and to Rome. It was a gorgeous time of year, late in the tourist season. But folks still packed the cobbled streets in every city I visited. I was resting in the Piazza della Signoria, just a few steps from the Uffizi Museum, waiting for some friends.
It was getting dark, and the hawkers were out selling flags and T-shirts. One young man kept trying to sell me some postcards, smiling and joking.
"Where are you from?" he asked after some small talk.
"Ah, America!" he said and called to his friend in Arabic, who said, "America! F--- Bush! F--- Obama!" and stormed away.
In less than two minutes, I was surrounded by 20 or 30 hawkers talking loudly to each other. It was obvious that I would have had to push my way through if I wanted to leave. So I sat there as calmly as I could, with the guy selling postcards still standing in front of me.
After five tense minutes, he stuck out his hand, barely looking at me, with a sheepish grin. I shook it, and he walked away.
The hawkers slowly faded into the side streets as the streetlights came on, and I saw my friends walking across the square.
It was a stark reminder that my personal politics didn't matter. That what causes I believed in didn't matter. As soon as the words "United States" left my lips, I was painted with the same brush as their beliefs about and experiences with my country.
We do much the same with other cultures.
News came down earlier this week of Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens' death. Apparently, there's a movie circulating around depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a homosexual and a pedophile, and now there are riots across North Africa. The U.S. Embassy in Libya was attacked, and Ambassador Stevens and three of his staff were killed.
Protesters have stormed the embassy in Yemen, and there are flags burning in Tunisia.
In response, the U.S. has sent two destroyers to the Libyan coast.
It's hard, as Americans, to argue against the right to express ourselves. Some of us would rather some folks didn't voice their opinions, but there's nothing we can do to stop them.
That doesn't mean we aren't allowed to express our outrage at speech that is filled with hate and prejudice and slander.
That shouldn't make me any less of an American.
Nor should it make me any less of a humanitarian to condemn the response in countries across the world that has cost lives -- both American and not.
Yesterday, at 2:53 p.m., I received an emergency message from the Consulate in Casablanca, warning of possible protests and the pre-emptive closure of the consulate building to the public. It read:
Media sources have reported protests in the region. Due to the possibility of further protests, the consulate is closed to the public this afternoon. The U.S. embassy in Rabat is in close contact with Moroccan authorities to assess the possibilities of demonstrations in Morocco.
The consulate urges U.S. citizens to avoid large gatherings and nonessential travel in and around the city center this afternoon and to be mindful of potential protest activity in this area in the near future. Even demonstrations or events intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. U.S. citizens in Morocco are urged to monitor local news reports and to plan their activities accordingly.
The potential for terrorist violence against U.S. interests and citizens remains elevated in Morocco. It is important for U.S. citizens to be keenly aware of their surroundings and adhere to prudent security practices such as avoiding predictable travel patterns and maintaining a low profile. Establishments that are readily identifiable with the United States or other Western countries are potential targets for attacks. These may include facilities where U.S. citizens and other foreigners congregate, including clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, hotels, movie theaters and other public areas.
I read this and wonder how the shopkeeper outside the Medina feels about me. If he would still sell me the gorgeous Moroccan lantern or sip mint tea with me as we haggled. Would he still take his picture with me, wrapped in a lovely scarf, him playing the tambourine?
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