This I Believe

Jessica - Webster City, Iowa
Entered on January 28, 2008
Age Group: Under 18
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Perception: Insight and capacity for such insight. It’s how one takes things in and conceives them. Just like the eyes of different people see different things, those same eyes may tell the mind to see what’s not necessarily there. I believe that everyone has different perceptions and that tolerance for the varying insights and thoughts should be called for.

I like to think of myself as an open-minded person that can take any person, no matter how different their perceptions may be from mine. I thought my perceptions were clear and true. This, though, was clearly tested when I went to places quite different than America with people quite different than the norm in Iowa. In France, with many foreign people and customs, perceptions were culturally diverse.

I, as a naïve citizen of this world, was fascinated at how foreigners perceived Americans. There were obviously those who kissed up to the tourists because Americans pretty much make up their tourism. But, there were those few foreigners in which I could sense their true perceptions.

In the hotel my family was staying at, there was a huge group of Muslims. They were actually French, they spoke French anyway and always seemed to know where they were going, but had turbans and robes. They knew we were Americans; it’s pretty easy to tell with the tennis shoes and the consistent “lost look” on our faces. I’ve seen Arabs before, and they’ve always had enough insight to get that not all Americans are what some think they are. Some of the French Arabs, though, had rather twisted perceptions, or so I thought.

It was apparent that some of the Muslims at our hotel had perceptions that resulted in disgust. These moments were defined in the cramped elevators of the hotel. When the door opened to the elevator, my parents and I would step in, and, out the corner of my eye, I almost fearfully saw the robes covering faces and turbans and everything of which I was ignorant. Their icy glares bore into the back of my head, and their murmurs were low and filled with contempt.

I now also realize that I never want to perceive any country in that way; people vary way too much to do that. I only wish people (including myself) had a little more tolerance because people aren’t just ignorant of other countries, but also people’s perceptions and insights. Perception is what makes people human, regardless of whether it’s twisted or not. If one thinks about it, perceptions are most always twisting and deceiving; the mind works in strange ways. I thought the perceptions of the Muslims were wrong, but they do kind of have basis for their perceptions and, because of my ignorance and theirs, all I can try to give is tolerance. But maybe those French Arab people weren’t talking about us Americans in the elevator; maybe those stares weren’t malevolent. After all, it was my perception.