In The Sirens of Baghdad, there is a scene that seems to capture a lot of the issues of cultural tension that the novel depicts. The specific scene that epitomized this for me was the conversations that followed the unjust shooting of Suleyman. In the aftermath of the shooting the conversation that follows, instead of directing unbridled anger towards the men who committed this crime, there is a scene of “pity” for the Americans.
The conversation leads to the exclamation that it is no wonder these soldiers are horrible brutes! In their culture, they come home to wives who are sleeping with their best friends. With lives like this, it is no wonder they are angry all the time.
This is a powerful scene that is attempting to capture the issue of cultural tension between the two regions. What is fascinating is that both parties seem to pity the other party’s culture. The American perception of the war was driven by alterations of the word culture, and the media perpetuated a foreign “culture” that held the people of the Middle East prisoners in need of liberation. This scene shows us the opposite side of this picture. While American media was perpetuating a view that had American people pitying the “culture” of the Middle East, simultaneously, the people of the Middle East were looking at soldier and American culture with similar horror.
Although it isn’t the same exact kind of pity, it is still strikingly similar responses to the opposition’s culture. The idea of having your wife cheat on you with your best friend is just as bad as many facets of Middle Eastern culture that Americans were convinced to believe were awful.
This put the Culture vs. “Culture” question into a new perspective showing that this tension in “culture” is not a one-way street. This little conversation reveals a lot of the tensions that are at play between the two sides of this war, and in at least one way, reveals a similarity rather than a tension in the way each side is responding to the events around the war.