Nabeel -

Thank you so much for responding. It’s rare that I have this kind of opportunity to have discussions like this with those whose experiences are so different from my own.

I’d like to start with the cultural insult, “coconut”. I spend a good deal of time in the Philippines and have a house there, and so am very familiar with the culture there. One of the cultural insults there is for one Filipino to call another Filipino “Twinkie” (after the junk-food pastry)…and as with “coconut”, the insult’s referring to “brown on the outside, white on the inside”.

When it comes to Muslims drinking alcohol, I saw that once in Dubai, but more interestingly, my son (who is half-Filipino but looks full white) related to me an incident while he was attending school in the Philippines. He had gone to a local eatery on the street and was having a beer. He saw a friend of his who happened to be Muslim, and saw that he was eating some pork barbecue. My son said, “Hey, I thought you couldn’t eat pork,” to which the other replied, “well, in the Church you belong to, you’re not supposed to drink alcohol, right?”

The point is, I’ve found there’s a surprising amount of similarities between widely disparate cultures. For instance, I was raised in the very deepest of the American Deep South, the heart of the “Bible Belt” with seemingly as many churches as people, and with a deep appreciation for family and the elderly. We say “yes sir” and “yes ma’am” in almost every sentence in conversation with our elders. In the Philippines, it’s the very same thing: it’s very religious (churches on almost every corner), and they use “po”, their gender-neutral equivalent of “yes sir/ma’am”, exactly as we do in the Deep South. Even many of the foods are the same. In other words, going to the Philippines is like going to the Deep South of my youth.

As time went on, I realized that many, if not most, cultures have such similarities. Other than the use of pork and the strictures of Islam, if I were a betting man I’d be willing to wager the culture of your youth really isn’t that much different from my own. Oh, the politicians and pundits might say otherwise, but courtesy and respect and understanding are in my experience universal traits among human cultures.

Concerning religion, yes, I am Christian, but in the Church of which I am a member, we do not celebrate Christmas or any of the other religious holidays. In fact, we agree with Islam and Judaism on the nature of God (only God is God, and Jesus was only a man and not God (though we do believe He is the Son of God)), and it is for that reason I often feel more sympathetic towards Muslims and Jews than towards trinity-worshiping “Christians”.

Also, please do not feel guilty for the actions of your own culture and nation. Instead, simply feel the cultural pride for what your culture does that is good and right, and discourage the wrong. At least, that’s what I try to do. There is so much that is wrong with American culture…but there’s a lot of right, too. The old saying goes, “familiarity breeds contempt”, and so the more we know of our own culture, the more we see its faults and sometimes feel the desire to reject that culture, all the while never realizing that the same contempt towards one’s own culture is felt by many people within every culture on the planet. If I were to visit Pakistan, I know I would see some things that are worse than in America, and some things that are better than in America…and judging by your own cultural awareness, I’m fairly certain that you’ve had much the same experience as I have.

One last thing, concerning the faults of one’s culture, there’s a joke my wife told me: what do you call someone who speaks three languages? Trilingual. What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bilingual. But what do you call someone who speaks only one language? American. Sadly, it’s true…and I’m fairly sure that’s no surprise to you. It’s for that reason that I’ve got a somewhat-working knowledge of Tagalog, the Filipino language.

Take care :)


Retired Navy. Inveterate contrarian. If I haven’t done it, I’ve usually done something close.

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