“Goofy Stuff”


Soon, I am going to travel to Zanzibar and a few months after, Namibia. As a born-and-raised American, I had to update some vaccines so my body doesn’t freak out (as severely) when I eat unwashed fruit. C’mon, body, pick your battles. Anyway, in this day and age I did this by asking Google Maps where the closest travel clinic was…and there, I went.

I made an appointment with my Google-recommended destination, and got some preliminary blood work done back in early April. I was grateful for the doctor who usually works about an hour away. He stopped by the Loop office just for my one appointment. Don’t get me wrong, my gratitude lives on. However, my respect for the doctor quickly died.

The appointment began well, and we struck up a conversation since we both have experience living overseas. He was ex-military and had been here and there throughout the world. I was sure I could learn a lot from him! He was also fascinated by my having studied in Tanzania. True, it isn’t the first choice of most American college students. So we talked about Swahili and about Africa. More than anything, we talked about Namibia, since that was the point of my visit. He actually pulled out a map and together we considered Namibia’s location. He asked me, “Is it mostly Christian there?” I affirmed that it definitely was from what I had heard. Then, he wiggled his finger around Southwest Africa and said, “So the area isn’t Islamic, then. That’s good. No goofy stuff there. You should be fine.”

My reply was a confident, “…Um.”

I kept up conversation with the doctor for the remainder of the visit, but I never voiced what my real reply should have been. See, I’m not ignorant. I know that–especially recently–a handful of groups worldwide have wreaked havoc and absolute terror in places like Nigeria, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, and others. These groups like Al-Shabaab and ISIL claim that what they are doing is in the interest of their faith, which is Islam. This is what the doctor was referring to. I understand that. But, to call it “goofy stuff” is insane. My students from Iraq and Libya came to Chicago because terrorism and war literally destroyed their governments. Nothing about that is goofy. On the other hand, the drug and gang-related violence in much of the world like El Salvador, Mexico, and yes, Chicago–the very city the doctor and I live in–has nothing to do with Islam. In fact, the vast majority of Muslims–like my students, my friends, and all the people who I love in Zanzibar–also have nothing to do with the “goofy stuff” that extremist criminals do. In conclusion, I agree with the doctor that I should be fine in Namibia. I should be fine, but it has nothing to do with Islam. Also, I would hate to know what he thinks scary stuff is, considering his definition of goofy.

But that isn’t what I said. I said, “…Um.”

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