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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

February 11, 2009 at 5:00 PM

Middle East affairs

The government is you

Charles Krauthammer wrote derisively about President Obama’s apology to the people of the Middle East, saying that we do not owe them one [“Obama needn’t apologize to the Muslim world,” syndicated column, Feb. 1]. Oh, yes we do!

In the early 1960s, I taught English in a small Druse village outside of Beirut to young people who became the engineers and professional class of the Middle East in the last 40 years. Most went on to be educated at the American University in Ras Beirut.

They frequently expressed to me their anger at the U.S., which was based on the way they, as a people, were treated by the U.S. government. I admit that I did not have the courage to ask them for specifics; it was too humiliating to have these young folks, whom I loved, be as angry at my government as they were.

When I was very young, I asked my dad what the word “government” meant. He said, “The government is you, Cheryl.”

Somehow, I felt responsible for the hurt, anger and humiliation that my students were expressing to me.

To watch Obama sit with an Arab, and actually admit we have made mistakes in foreign policy, was beyond my ability to project. I was stunned and I hope my students were watching.

We are all old now, but knowing them as I did, I know they still care passionately that the United States of America live up to its values of decency. I know I certainly do still care as well.

— Cheryl Banks, Seattle

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