Looking back at my original ruminations about my identity and the impact it has on my experiences, I find myself to be only partially correct. Over the last four months, I have discovered much about my own identity, as well as the role identity plays in the relations between people, ethnic/religious groups, and even nations.
Although I was in a fairly small town in southern Germany for almost the entirety of the fall semester, I might as well have gone to Turkey. For four months, I spent 98% of my free time among almost exclusively Turkish social circles. My Turkish improved drastically, to the point that I was taken for a Turk by those who didn’t know my actual ethnic origin. Essentially, I blended into the Turkish culture and society fairly well. As I spent hours, days, weeks, and months engaged in conversation with all sorts of individuals from my newfound community, I came to understand their form of nationalism, ethnic pride, cultural aspects, and how they see themselves in a foreign environment (Germany). This integration afforded me a unique perspective on four different cultures/nations (American, German, Arab, Turk) and two instances of a minority culture existing in non-native countries (Arabs and Turks in Germany, and the same minorities in the United States).
From my experiences I conclude that among the most dangerous and detrimental notions for the unity of any people are excessive nationalism or ethnic pride. I denounce the Arabs who are too prideful to try and communicate with Turks, and the Turks who are too prideful to form a connection with Arabs. I also denounce the the Germans, Americans, or any ‘native’ members of a population who look at minorities with disdain, and the minorities who generalize, pass judgement upon, and baselessly resent the others. In Germany I learned that I am under no obligation to affiliate with any one ethnic or national group at any time. By speaking, forming a connection, and understanding others, I eliminate any differences or barriers between myself and them; I become one of them.
Anyone’s identity can afford them an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on the behavior and perspective of those around them. This is an element of the metaphorical equation that they do not control. However, it is within the person’s control to treat others and interact within society in a manner that is fair, and does not perpetuate a system that conditionally favors some but not others.