The book Zeitoun basically talks about a Syrian American family’s experience in the time of Hurricane Katrina. It was mainly divided into two story lines, one of Abdulrahman Zeitoun, the main character, a Syrian American contractor; and one of Kathy, his wife, a white woman converted Muslim. Zeitoun had an extraordinary life, also an extraordinary experience in the time of Hurricane Katrina. He was a successful well-known businessman in local area. When everyone else was fleeing their hometown before Katrina came, Zeitoun chose to stay to protect his house and business.
Later then when the city was flooded, he travelled around with his small canoe, delivering help and resources. However, he was wrong arrested as a looting suspect then and was sent into jail. He was treated as a terrorist and taken away the right of fair trial, forced to confine in a maximum security prison for a crime he didn’t commit. At the end, Zeitoun was released and able to unite with his family again, but he was not compensated in any ways for his misfortune. As this book describes, everything in the time of Hurricane Katrina had gone crazy, including the American criminal justice system.
The main objection of this book is to criticize racism phenomenon in America and the rotten criminal justice system. Racism is a main subject in this book. It was first mentioned in this book in Kathy’s story line about her past life experience. “Years earlier, Kathy and her mother had gone to the DMV together to have Kathy’s license renewed. Kathy was wearing her hijab, and had already received a healthy number of suspicious looks from DMV customers and staff by the time she sat down to have her picture taken.
The employee behind the camera did not disguise her contempt. ‘Take that thing off,’ the woman said. ” (Zeitoun page 58) From the mentioning of these kinds of past experience seemed irrelevant to Hurricane Katrina, we can see the author’s desire to insert the topic of racism into this book. Kathy’s case shrinks small comparing to Zeitoun’s case in his arrest. “‘You guys are al Qaeda,’ the soldier said. Todd laughed derisively, but Zeitoun was startled. He could not have heard right. Zeitoun had long feared this day would come.
Each of the few times he had been pulled over for a traffic violation, he knew the possibility existed that he would be harassed, misunderstood, suspected of shadowy dealing that might bloom in the imagination of any given police officer. After 9/11, he and Kathy knew that many imaginations had run amok, that the introduction of the idea of ‘sleeper cells’- groups of would-be terrorists living in the U. S. and waiting, for years or decades, to strike- meant that everyone at their mosque, or the entire mosque itself, might be waiting for instructions from their presumed leaders in the hills of Afghanistan or Pakistan. (Zeitoun page 212)
It didn’t surprise me at all that Zeitoun have those thoughts that might seem over-worried in some people’s eyes.. Indeed, another author Maysan Haydar had mentioned similar thoughts in her essay “Veiled Intentions: Don’t Judge a Muslim Girl by Her Covering. ” “Now some people hold their breath a bit longer, assuming I’m a fundamentalist or wondering if I’m there to cause them harm. I sense people studying me on the trains, reading the cover of the book in my hand and trying to gauge if I am one of ‘us’ or one of ‘them’.
I grapple with the frustration that I can’t reassure everyone individually that my goals have everything to do with social justice and nothing to do with holy war. But I have seen suspicious fade in the eyes of the pregnant woman to whom I’ve given my subway seat or the Hasidic man whose elbow I’ve taken to help him up the stairs. ” (Haydar pg 406) I feel very sorry for Haydar and Zeitoun’s experiences. Muslim people are always feared to be presumed as terrorist. American frightened by the traumatic event of 9-11 developed a stereotype against people from Middle East.
The fear of being attack also again drove American crazy on national security. However, for whatever reason, racism has put upon so much harm on people we discriminate against. Muslim people like Zeitoun, hard working and honest people, are forced to live under the fear of being prosecuted for his race someday, taken away from his family, locked up in somewhere nobody would know he’s died or not. Those fears have made them coward under a lowly skin, live like second-class citizens. “In the weeks after the attacks on the Twin Towers, Kathy saw very few Muslim women in public.
She was certain they were hiding, leaving home only when necessary. In Late September, she was in Walgreens when she finally saw a woman in a hijab. She ran to her. ‘Salaam alaikum! ’ she said, taking the woman’s hands. The woman, a doctor studying at Tulane, had been feeling the same way, like an exile in her own country, and they laughed at how delirious they were to see each other. ” (Zeitoun page 46) Indeed, as part of international society, American allowed people to be exiled from their own country.
In Edward Said’s essay, “States”, he escribed how they, Palestinian people was exiled from their own country and forced to scatter around the world, be denied of personal identity everywhere. ”Some Israeli settlers on the West Bank say: ‘The Palestinians can stay here, with no rights, as resident aliens. ’ Other Israelis are less kind. ” (Said pg 546) “The fact is that today I can neither return to the places of my youth, nor voyage freely in the countries and places that mean the most to me, nor feel safe from arrest or violence even in the countries I used to frequent but whose governments and policies have changed radically in recent times. (Said pg 547)
In a documentary I have watched, in some cases, if a Palestinian wants to travel from points to points, they have to go through checkpoints set up by local military. They would be asked to show their prove of identity and relevant documents which sources were mostly denied. Nobody tell them what to do then, no laws protect them, some of them can’t even go to hospitals and schools like every other human being in the course that they don’t have a legal identity. We as adults, teach our kids not to bully in school, that it’s wrong to do so.
In contrast, as a human, we allow our country, ourselves to bully on people with a different skin tone. Isn’t this hilarious? Another main subject posted in this book is the criminal justice system in America. Zeitoun was initially arrested in his house, then taken to the bus station, naked searched and put in jail. Throughout the whole process, he had never been told of his charges, no phone calls granted, no one had ever given him a chance to defend himself or to find a lawyer. He was treated as terrorist. In the course of his Middle-Eastern accent, everything about him seemed suspicious to the guards.
He was kept in inhumane confinement, was given pork for food despite his religion. He had a deep wound in his feet but was never treated nor given any medical attention. There were basically no laws in effect, Zeitoun was treated as if he wasn’t an American citizen anymore, constitutions and laws don’t protect him. “Watching the evidence on the table mount, Zeitoun’s shoulders slackened. Most municipal systems were not functioning. There were no lawyers in the station, no judges. They would not talk their way out of this. The police and soldiers in the room were too worked up, and the evidence was too intriguing. (Zeitoun 215) But the most disappointing fact about this is what t I found out later in the book, that all of this happened to Zeitoun was not special cases happened once or twice, it was somehow permitted.
“But knowing that Zeitoun’s ordeal was caused instead by systemic ignorance and malfunction- and perhaps long-festering paranoia on the part of the National Guard and whatever other agencies were involved-was unsettling. It said, quite clearly, that this wasn’t a case of a bad apple or two in the barrel. The barrel itself was rotten. (Zeitoun 307) This is totally different from what I learnt from my administration of justice class. The whole process is wrong. How could an innocent person be justified this way? Not even a phone call allowed. It is nothing better than abduction. Who gave government the right to treat people like this? I guess under the name of National Security, there’s nothing government can’t do, all laws and constitutions could be undermined. James Bamford, author of essay “Wired” pointed out the same point, says in his essay, “’They violated the Constitution setting it up. He says bluntly. “But they didn’t care.
They were going to do it anyway, and they were going to crucify anyone who stood in the way. ’” “Basically all rules were thrown out the window, and they would use any excuse to justify a waiver to spy on Americans. ” (Wired pg 0843,, 084) National Security, initially served the principle of protecting Americans has become a tool to against Americans. “The NSA has turned its surveillance apparatus on the US and its citizens. It has established listening posts throughout the nation to collect and sift through billions of email messages and phone calls, whether they originate within the country or overseas.
It has created a supercomputer of almost unimaginable speed to look for patterns and unscramble codes. Finally, the agency has begun building a place to store all the trillions of words and thoughts and whispers captured in its electronic net. ” (Wired pg 81) Isn’t it scary to know our government has already gone this far for “National Security”? Anyone is a target of NSA. But who is more prone to be checked on? I believe this could be linked again to the topic of racism.
Look back to Zeitoun and his fellows’ arrest; I believe they would never have been presumed as terrorists, despite the same context and evidence, if all four of them are white. The book Zeitoun serves more than a journalism. Dave Egger cleverly brought out these two important topics to us through the book. Could we still call our country States of freedom and equality after learning all these previously unknown facts? It’s time for people to stand up to protect the prides of America, fix our criminal justice system, drive racism into history and look forward to a better, true States of freedom and equality.