The America I know
Out of all of my high school football memorabilia, the framed 2003-2004 senior players picture is my most cherished item. This represents what America means to me, which is already inscribed in the nation's insignia: E Pluribus Unum. It is Latin for, "Out of many, one."
Alongside my overtanned wannabe badboy self are my teammates, nay, brothers, who have opened their hearts and minds to accept me as one of their own. They are Jews, Caucasians, African Americans, Latinos, Irish, Italians, Arabs, Asians.
They stuck by me when I was just a clueless kid from Indonesia who didn't know a thing about this peculiar sport of American football, in which an oval shaped ball made of pig skin is thrown and kicked around with 22 players wrecking their bodies and risking brain damage.
But later I got a good hang of it and finally enjoyed playing the sport. I also met wonderful coaches who inspired me to push my own limits and become stronger and better. In my junior year, I played as defense linebacker and won the Most Valuable Player award.
That end of my high school years at Walt Whitman Bethesda, Maryland, we had a perfect score at regular season : 10-0. Undefeated!
The score is historic, and has never been achieved in almost 50 years of the school's history. It has yet to be broken.
Muslim in America
I was in the Washington, DC area when 9/11 happened. I remember those days with photographic memory and will never forget how I felt when we went back to school the first day after the emergency school holiday.
Being a foreigner and a Muslim, which is a rarity in my school, I was petrified of how my football teammates and the rest of my friends would think of me.
Will they now put me in the same basket of people who support Al-Qaeda? Do I have to look over my shoulders and be weary of threats and/or physical altercations? How should I act?
It turns out instead of receiving threats or bullying, I received curiosity. My friends started to come up to me, wanting to know more about Islam, what I believe in, and what my opinions are about the horrible attacks. After many conversations and respectful exchanges, I was welcomed and embraced without hatred or negative sentiment.
For that, my respect for Americans and the American spirit grew exponentially. Now, that spirit of what being an American is, and the core values which all citizens must uphold, are coming face to face with an existential threat yet again. Refugees and Muslims are targeted again through a blizzard of governmental actions.
However, seeing that some of my friends are now protesting against these ignorant and backward foreign policies, I feel that the spirit of America etched in my memory is not dead. It is alive... and kicking ass.
So, to all my friends fighting the good fight, Godspeed. My prayers are with you. This knee-jerk reaction to undermine American values and spirit in disguise of "national security" will not last, as they never have time and time again in your history.
Be vigilant. Be inquisitive. Be strong through unity. And above all, as my best friend's mother told me before I went into school immediately after 9/11: "Chin up. Don't be afraid."
Go Vikes! – Rappler.com
Iliad Lubis lived in the United States for 6 years. He holds an electrical engineering degree from McGill University and an MBA from Waseda University. He currently works at Adaro Energy. He enjoys Aikido, Muay Thai and diving.