As leaders of a study-abroad group in (the former) communist East Germany, my husband and I experienced extraordinary hospitality. Example: In one afternoon, by knocking on the doors of perfect strangers, we found five families who, at some risk from their government, agreed to host our students on weekends. (We were all housed in a dorm.) One woman excitedly said, “I can’t believe I’m going to have Americans staying in my home.”
Another woman said, “We people get along; it’s just our governments that don’t.” (After the Berlin Wall fell, this woman relished living in Lancaster during her husband’s guest professorship at Franklin & Marshall College.)
Likewise, on a learning tour of Iran in 2008, my brother was amazed at the friendliness of the people on the street, who often wished the American group an enjoyable visit. The group felt a little nervous when policemen approached them, but they expressed the same hope.
We don’t know how widespread the recent “death to America” sentiment was. The anger, due to our harsh sanctions and withdrawal from the nuclear agreement, was simply exacerbated by our assassination of Qassem Soleimani.
An “East German” friend recently wrote: “For years, I have been an admirer of your country, and although I know that one person is not the country, Trump has changed my attitude toward it. How can people stand behind a man who turns everything (like agreements based on mutual understanding) upside down? How can you trust somebody who acts unpredictably?”
My questions, too.
Mary Ellen Martin