I am Ahmed

(9 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

I was born to Norswegian parents a bit over a half century ago.  I’ve had a fairly typical working to middle to working class life.  I went to school in a working/middle class community where there were few minorities.  That was during the sixties and early seventies.  I was pretty successful in high school, particularly in sports.  I became very good at basketball and baseball and achieved all-state honors in both.  I was good enough to receive college scholarship offers in both sports, and accepted one where I could play both.  My father was gone by that time.  But I went to college and did well in basketball my freshman year.  That was my first real experience with people of color.  Half of the team was black, and although I had played against blacks before, I never had one as a teammate.  But I still remember Jon, Buck, Michael, Robert and Joe.   We were all 18 and 19 year old kids who played together and partied together, and became friends.  Whites and blacks together, away from home, in a family environment of our own for five months.  I loved it.


Baseball season was getting ready to start and I was excited but by then my mother was falling ill from the ravages of alcohol and money was very tight even though I had my schooling paid.  A friend of mine from high school visited during that spring and told me he was joining the Navy.  He told me we could join on the buddy system and be sent on the same assignments.  That was still during the Vietnam war.  We would volunteer for the submarine service and during the two years of active duty, save most of our money, because we’d be underwater most of the time anyway.  Then we would get out, buy a sailboat, park it at Lake Washington in Seattle, and go to the University of Washington.  I would then become a big basketball star. Made sense to me but at 6’5″, I was a little skeptical of the submarine service. But you know those recruiters, they get hold of an 18 year old and who knows what can happen.  

So I joined the Navy and did indeed volunteer for submarine service.  I went to boot camp and was assigned to a company.  My education continued as I met more blacks and also Hispanics, Native Americans, and Asian Americans.  Three months in close quarters and near constant contact with a potpourri of American excellence.  I didn’t love it!  At least not at the time.  Boot camp ain’t for wimps.   Particularly for me, my mother died when I was there at the age of 45.  But later, later I grew to love it.  Later I grew to understand it as one of the best times of my life.  My year and a half on the submarine was equally, if not more educational.  We went to the Phillipines, Hong Kong, Japan, and Guam, each time getting to meet people from different cultures and races.  

After the Navy, I went back to college, again on a full basketball scholarship.  I had to decide between basketball and baseball at that point.  It is very difficult in the college environment to be a jack of all trades, master of none.   I had to become a master, or at least attempt to, in order to make it in college athletics.  It worked, I had a great career, making small college All American and getting an invite to the NBA.  I accepted and did my best, but things didn’t work out.  My dream of playing in the NBA was done.  So I got married and started a career with the federal government.

After a couple years with the feds, I applied for a job in Germany, West Germany at the time.  After ten months I had forgotten about it, but on one Friday afternoon, I received a phone call and an offer of employment in Stuttgart.  I took the weekend to decide but on Monday called them back and said, hell ya, let’s do this!  Or something to that effect.  So, and by that time it’s with a wife and a kid, we said auf weidersehn to our friends and family and jetted to West Germany, to work for the Department of the Army.  

Again, my education continued when I joined a 100 person office consisting of Americans, West Germans, and people from India, Pakistan, Poland, Egypt, England, and Austria.  I inquired about playing basketball for a German team and a friend from my office hooked me up with a co-director of a local team in Ludwigsburg.   German teams at that time were only allowed one “auslander” per team, whether it be an American or someone from another country.  The team had just lost their auslander to another team so they were looking.  I evidently impressed in my tryout and was signed to a contract.  At that point, I was playing professional basketball.  Not the NBA for sure, but they gave me money to put the ball in the hoop.   Yes, I loved that.  Those Germans take their sports training very seriously and for the next five years, I had a real German family.  I was the only American on a team of twelve.  They taught me more than I can put into words.  I remember a tournament we went to in Bratislava, Czechoslavakia, around 1987 when it was still under Communist rule.  There were eight teams there, from West Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Poland, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia.  I was the only player from the United States.  What an experience playing ball with all those young men from different countries.    

During that time I met an Egyptian man named Mossad.  He was a little older than me and had immigrated with his family to West Germany.  Mossad was one of the kindest, gentlest, positive men I have ever met.  He had fought against Israel in the 1967 war.  He accepted me and my wife into his family.  I remember one Thanksgiving in West Germany.  Mossad wanted to join in the celebration as did some of my German teammates.  So my wife and I invited a whole bunch of people over to our West German apartment to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving celebration complete with turkey and cranberry sauce.  No kidding here, in our apartment were people from West Germany, Egypt, Poland, Austria, Pakistan, India, Britain, and of course the United States.  Celebrating Thanksgiving.  They loved it as did me and my family.  Mossad had brought a woman with him who carried a bag with her.  Later in the evening he sat me down on my couch and proceeded to treat me to a personal belly dance performed by that woman.  All of us in that room were brothers and sisters that night.

That’s when Mossad introduced me to Ahmed.  Ahmed was a jack of all trades.  If you needed something done or wanted something, whether it was car repairs, hashish, or a babysitter, Ahmed could get it done. He had a perpetual smile on his face and was always genuinely glad to see me.  Ahmed and I had something in common physically as well, he was also 6’5″.  We literally looked at each other eye to eye.  And we became like brothers.  

I’ve learned alot in my 54 years.  I’ve met people from all over the world and learned that they are no different from me.  They are humans.  Ahmed was one of the best humans I’ve ever met.  The same with Mossad.  It saddens me to think that Ahmed and Mossad could encounter racism based on our arrogant “war on terror”.  They were and I’m sure still are, people who I would defend to the death if need be.  

I don’t accept this war on terror.  It is racist.  Ahmed wasn’t a racist and neither am I.  I am Ahmed.  


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    • Underdog on December 30, 2009 at 09:15
  1. I had to turn it off.  It was one of the most arrogant things I have ever heard the man say, and I’ve heard him say some arrogant things.

    I get tired of my fellow Americans sometimes, Underdog.  I am tired of the notion that the whole world has to pander to American or “majoritarian” sensibilities.

    The “War on Terror” (which is rhetoric I am hearing AGAIN) means we have to plow people under, treat them like animals.

    Just as in order to “protect Marriage” we have to treat gay people like second class citizens.  

    Does anybody but me see the similarity?  The relationship?  Or is it to most people two completely different things?

    That certain people’s ideas of the way things should be, an IDEA or an EMOTION is sufficient reason to destroy people and wreck their lives.  For certain people to satisfy themselves that they have done enough to “protect themselves”.

    The sheer fatuous, arrogant, navel gazing, chutzpah aspect strikes me, but as I think about it, what is more important is how much does one demand to protect themselves from an emotion, or to “protect” (in one’s mind) a so-called “institution”.

    Pardon me, but I’ve never seen one building, one skyscraper, or one physical structure of any kind in this country that was called “Marriage”.  What does one do to protect marriage, to the extent such protection demands that other people are put in their place and perhaps destroyed.  What will ever be enough?

    We are developing into a nation where people feel free to demand anything of others, to protect themselves from bad thoughts, emotions and ideas.  And where that can possibly end .. to me, it’s bottomless.

    And that’s the scary part.  The “where does it end”? aspect.

  2. This is why the “War on Terror” is doomed to failure, a canard and a lie.  People are responsible for their own fear.

    Similarly, no one can protect your marriage but you and your spouse, which is why “protecting marriage” from evil homosexuals who want to supposedly destroy it (as opposed to the truth, which is having their own if they wish) is doomed to failure, a canard and a lie.

    • banger on December 30, 2009 at 15:46

    I like knowing about you, thank you very much for your story. Stories are so important, maybe more important than the ideas and comments we make, I don’t know. I guess I see everything as a story.

    I grew up in the Foreign Service and experienced a variety of cultures growing up. It kind of spoiled me for the myth of American Exceptionalism which is our national religion and we may as well admit it — it is a religion with rites, holidays, “theology”, and so on. It is even further removed from observable facts than any religion I know of.

    We are not, in my view, a particularly racist country it is our National religion that governs our “taste” for other cultures. We hate Islam because it is, in many ways, the opposite of our own culture. The essence of Islam is “surrender” to God. By that I mean that the first principle is to nurture some degree of humility towards a greater power because everyday they physically bow to God. Their lives are, at least in the ideal, filled with living with God always near. In may ways Islam and Sharia law is a kind of Yoga.

    Islamic cultures usually have the old virtues readily at hand. One of the things that strikes me is hospitality and reverence for guests. Arabs and Iranians two very different people tend to be very generous to individuals and quick to offer assistance and delight in other people’s happiness. Yes, many of them are kind of fucked up and conflicted like anyone else but their cultural tenets tend to rub off the rough edges and create a graciousness that is very rare in our society (except among immigrants).

    Mind you, I don’t think I could ever swallow the Koran so I’m not in any danger of being a Muslim except in spirit. I too believe that the best kind of life is one lived in dedication to God, or if you prefer, to the spirit of the whole (everybody has some sense of that even atheists otherwise morality would not exist).

    In the United States we have made a virtue out of selfishness and that is our worst flaw and one which is easily manipulated by the elites. We are, essentially, the young boys who go to Pleasure Island and are turned into donkeys by their own petty pleasures.  

    • Xanthe on December 30, 2009 at 16:57

    btw, memoirs are having a renaissance in writing classes at universities.  I am a perpetual student – I should have been a teacher.  But just living the right way is teaching those around you and being a student as well.

    Nice, Underdog.  Sorry about your mom – the loss of your father and pressing money problems often leads to alcoholism.

  3. –badly.  

  4. I also am Ahmed.

    Great essay.

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