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America’s Theatrical Responsibility

Twelve years ago, the United States faced a tragedy the likes of which are unparalleled in the history of this country. The impacts and aftershocks of these events are still being felt today. News anchors and politicians readily recall images from New York to serve their own agendas. The Left and Right wings of American politics use inflammatory rhetoric to tease, prod, and open the scars left by that day. Bluntly, it has become weary.

Jamil Khoury’s article Towards an Arab American Theater Movement acts as a much needed theatrical manifesto, a veritable call to theatrical action for voices to be heard on this ancient forum on the American stage. Khoury cries for Arab American actors, designers, directors, anybody to start a revolution in theater and evolve it into a setting for showcasing a unique aesthetic that seems to have been met with adversity and been denied a proper stage. Conversations need to happen about representation, stereotypes, stigmas, racism, and the American stage has to use Khoury’s ideas to have such discussions. How are we expected to grow as a medium if we readily silence those who wish to use us?

The American stage desperately needs this. Not simply because the culture and perspective that Khoury recommends for it is an invaluable lens by which we analyze the world. The American theatrical scene must incorporate this disenfranchised group as a means of challenging the post September 11th stigmas that still exist in this country. Muslim has been equated to enemy. Arab has been equated to enemy. Arab decent has been equated to enemy. Simply put, it is not just. Now, an opportunity has been presented to tear down those preconceptions, and the theaters of America must take it.

For a very brief time after the Boston marathon bombers were depicted, they were misidentified as being Saudi Arabian. The fever to find these two men reached a peak that would not be felt again until the lockdown a week later. In the city of Boston, and in America as a whole, there was a desperate clamor to find these two men magnified only by a simple slip of misinformation. From then on, America would subconsciously inform their opinions based on that. When the word “Muslim” was used, tensions continued mounting. Whether or not these statements were true, there suddenly existed multiple rhetorical connections between these two individuals and those who drove airplanes into the World Trade Center.

There is a very specific reason why this article must be posted today, and not yesterday, tomorrow, or next week. The conversation needs to happen, and stories need to be told. We, as a country, must heal from this event that happened over a decade ago. I do not mean to cheapen or trivialize the horrific events that will forever be burned in our country’s consciousness. My generation has a difficult time remembering a period in our lives where we were not at war with the Middle East, with Muslims, with the area of Arabia. This country needs to heal, and Khoury has presented the exact solution to begin this process. It is our responsibility to see what positive outcomes such a movement would allow. America, it is time.

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