Diminishing American Pride
The book Zeitoun basically talks about a Syrian American family’s experience in the time of Hurricane Katrina. It was mainly divided into two story lines, one of Abdulrahman Zeitoun, the main character, a Syrian American contractor; and one of Kathy, his wife, a white woman converted Muslim. Zeitoun had an extraordinary life, also an extraordinary experience in the time of Hurricane Katrina. He was a successful well-known businessman in local area. When everyone else was fleeing their hometown before Katrina came, Zeitoun chose to stay to protect his house and business. Later then when the city was flooded, he travelled around with his small canoe, delivering help and resources. However, he was wrong arrested as a looting suspect then and was sent into jail. He was treated as a terrorist and taken away the right of fair trial, forced to confine in a maximum security prison for a crime he didn’t commit. At the end, Zeitoun was released and able to unite with his family again, but he was not compensated in any ways for his misfortune. As this book describes, everything in the time of Hurricane Katrina had gone crazy, including the American criminal justice system. The main objection of this book is to criticize racism phenomenon in America and the rotten criminal justice system. Racism is a main subject in this book. It was first mentioned in this book in Kathy’s story line about her past life experience. “Years earlier, Kathy and her mother had gone to the DMV together to have Kathy’s license renewed. Kathy was wearing her hijab, and had already received a healthy number of suspicious looks from DMV customers and staff by the time she sat down to have her picture taken. The employee behind the camera did not disguise her contempt. ‘Take that thing off,’ the woman said.” (Zeitoun page 58) From the mentioning of these kinds of past experience seemed irrelevant to Hurricane Katrina, we can see the author’s desire to insert the topic of racism into this book. Kathy’s case shrinks small comparing to Zeitoun’s case in his arrest. “‘You guys are al Qaeda,’ the soldier said. Todd laughed derisively, but Zeitoun was startled. He could not have heard right. Zeitoun had long feared this day would come. Each of the few times he had been pulled over for a traffic violation, he knew the possibility existed that he would be harassed, misunderstood, suspected of shadowy dealing that might bloom in the imagination of any given police officer. After 9/11, he and Kathy knew that many imaginations had run amok, that the introduction of the idea of ‘sleeper cells’- groups of would-be terrorists living in the U.S. and waiting, for years or decades, to strike- meant that everyone at their mosque, or the entire mosque itself, might be waiting for instructions from their presumed leaders in the hills of Afghanistan or Pakistan.” (Zeitoun page 212) It didn’t surprise me at all that Zeitoun have those thoughts that might seem over-worried in some people’s eyes.. Indeed, another author Maysan Haydar had mentioned similar thoughts in her essay “Veiled Intentions: Don’t Judge a Muslim Girl by Her Covering.” “Now some people hold their breath a bit longer, assuming I’m a fundamentalist or wondering if I’m there to cause them harm. I sense people studying me on the trains, reading the cover of the book in my hand and trying to gauge if I am one of ‘us’ or one of ‘them’. I grapple with the frustration that I can’t reassure everyone individually that my goals have everything to do with social justice and nothing to do with holy war. But I have seen suspicious fade in the eyes of the pregnant woman to whom I’ve given my subway seat or the Hasidic man whose elbow I’ve taken to help him up the stairs.” (Haydar pg 406) I feel very sorry for Haydar and Zeitoun’s experiences. Muslim people are always feared to be presumed as terrorist. American frightened by the traumatic event of 9-11 developed a stereotype against...
Dave Eggers, Zeitoun, Vintage Books, Random House Inc, New York, 2009.
Edward Said, States, Ways of reading, 9th edition, Bedford/ St Martins, Boston, 2011, pg# 541
Maysan Haydar, Veiled Intentions: don’t judge a Muslim girl by her covering
James Bamford, Wired
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