Hi, I'd appreciate if I could get some thoughts on my essay that I hope to use for a few different supplements or the Common App essay. I'm worried about the flow in particular.
I was born in the Philippines, but I lived in Riyadh until I was 4. My dad, somewhat ironically, worked for AlSalam, a Saudi aircraft company owned by Boeing. I was young, but I still have a few vivid memories of Saudi Arabia. I remember the women wearing burqas, though my mom, a foreigner, only had to wear an abaya without the face-veil. I remember that McDonalds, my favorite spot for a meal, had a separate section for men and one for women and children. It was haraam, forbidden, my parents told me, to eat with the men. And I remember Zoo Day, when my mom had to wait in the car while we visited the animals.
But I also remember that one of the tenants in the building we lived in was a kind old Arab named Osama who looked after me and my sisters when we were home alone. And I know, as my mom often tells me and anyone she can, that one of the first phrases I learned, right alongside "Hi" and "Mommy", was "Salaam" or "Salaamu `Alaykum". Peace be with you, the way all Arabs greeted each other.
I moved to the States when I was 4 or 5, and I was in 3rd grade when a pair of Boeing jets flew into the Twin Towers. 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi, and Public Enemy #1 was a Saudi named Osama. I live in a suburb with a large number of Jews and Protestants and very few Muslims. Many of my friends' parents worked in the city, and a few were in the World Trade Center. Anti-Arab sentiment was high and full of vitriol. I was confused, too young to understand. Sure, they had different dress, rules, and customs, but Arabs didn't seem any different to me. If anything, they were the sort that wished peace upon each other with every encounter as opposed to once a week at Mass. It was hard for me to imagine that they would kill 3000 innocents, but the images on TV were undeniable. But I still thought of Osama as my kind neighbor. I struggled to make sense of this. Was I wrong all along, and which side was right?
As I grew up, I learned to appreciate seeing both sides. During the campaign, a woman famously told McCain that Obama was an Arab. "No," McCain replied. "He's a decent family man." McCain implied that "decent family men" are mutually exclusive from Arabs, something I knew was far from the truth. Obama's campaign, quick to deny reports that Obama was an Arab, was equally culpable. Obama should have responded asking, "So what if I am?" Both campaigns legitimized "Arab" as an acceptable slur. Before he ever became President, Obama was arguably just as guilty as Osama in this conflict.
Because of these experiences, I've come to a conclusion - nothing groundbreaking but pivotal in my global perspective. Arabs and non-Arabs are equally at fault in their conflict. More universally, we are all unknowingly to blame for our conflicts. It sounds self-evident, but it took me years to appreciate. We play up our differences in nationality, race, and religion too much. Diversity and identity admittedly have their place, but we can overemphasize them and end up dividing amongst those lines. But it turns out that there are no sides, and our divisions are arbitrary at best. We are all just people, united in our humanity.