Thursday, October 2, 2008

Small Town America, Big Town America

I grew up in a small town. The owners of a local restaurant (the only one in town) were Kosovars from Kosovo. This was all I ever really knew about them. When they moved away, the restaurant was taken over by...another Kosovar family. It seemed to be a trend. The food still tasted the same. My friends and I knew that they were immigrants, and that they had accents, but it never occurred to us why they might have come to America, or even what religion they may have espoused.

Well as it turns out, they were Muslims, and odds are that they left their country because of horrific religious violence there; I never asked for fear of causing discomfort. I hadn't  really thought of this until I left home for school and encountered other Muslims who I knew explicitly as Muslims. It all made sense to me then. Some of the kids were my age, and in looking back on my time in school with them, their religion was of little concern to me. I suppose this is because my hometown is quite obviously Christian; having never known other faiths, I had just assumed that the family at the restaurant was like everybody else. 

But when I moved to the city, I became very aware of the multitude of different religions swirling around me. Chicago was very close, and when I had reasons to visit, I would notice yarmulkes and hijabs and bindis and crosses and all sorts of other religious paraphernalia. In cities, multifaith existence is a given, but in the country, this may not be so. What I do know is that people in cities, even if they are different faiths, work and live and pray and hang out together.

In the country, even if we're not aware of it, we do the exact same thing.