In recent weeks, I’ve watched as people my age took to the streets of Cairo to uphold the idea of liberty. It’s made me wonder, would the youth of America take such radical action in the face of similar injustice— would they even notice the injustice in the first place?
I come from a generation of Americans who have lived half their lives in a post-9/11 world. The awful columns of smoke cleared, but they left in their wake a residue of distrust and fear that came to rest our shoulders. My peers and I found an ease in ignorance; we hid our minds in the confines of fashion magazines, video games, and the internet.
When I left the States to live in a 94% Muslim country my friends expressed apprehension, but I was far from scared. The people of Senegal (indeed, of Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Afghanistan) are people. I approached this year with a deep desire to understand and an openness to accept.
In the village I now call home, I hear the lilt of prayer call five times a day and watch as my family members kneel toward Mecca. Through conversations with everyone from my host mother to a teacher at the local Madrasa (Quoranic school), I’ve come to understand that Islam is much like the rest of the world’s religions and that its believers, Muslims, are simply trying to make sense of this complicated thing called life—as we all are.
Coming to Senegal with an open mind has allowed me to see the universality of humanity as Martin Luther King, Jr. described in his 1963 letter from Birmingham Jail, an “inescapable network of mutuality” that we are all caught in. Understanding that deep level of connectedness brings with it a collective responsibility to address the injustices of our World.
As a young American, I see that my generation is capable of rising to such a challenge. We have unparalleled tools at our disposal. The mass media of fashion magazines, technology of video games, and global connectedness of the internet will allow us to address issues swiftly and decisively—as the young people of Egypt did in the past weeks.
I believe this generation of youth must embrace understanding and openness; with that step will come the acknowledgement that we are not just Americans, or Senegalese, or Egyptians, but also Citizens of the Globe.