The Common Good

Joe Roos: Americans Abroad Face Hussein Hanging Backlash

(Photo from a protest in India during a visit by George W. Bush earlier in 2006, by Gautam Singh, AP)

Nationwide demonstrations against the United States and the execution of Saddam Hussein got close and personal for me, my wife, Cheri Herrboldt, and our six-year-old daughter, Anjali on January 2. We arrived three months ago in Kodaikanal, near India's southern tip, to teach and provide spiritual leadership to Kodaikanal International School, a Christian multicultural, multifaith institution of learning. At 11 .am. an anti-U.S. demonstration began at the entrance of the school, which was targeted because U.S. citizens like us teach there. Loud and angry slogans were shouted for over two hours denouncing the U.S. for the invasion and occupation of Iraq and for the execution of Saddam Hussein. Fires outside the gate were lit as further expressions of anger. The school was not damaged and no one was injured.

Cheri had been working at the school all morning and called to tell me about what was happening. Because the second semester at the school will not start until next week, the campus was largely unpopulated and I was at home with Anjali. School security did not allow anyone to leave the campus until the incident was over several hours after it started.

The India government has expressed mild opposition to Hussein's execution and the U.S. role in it, but many voices have criticized the government's tepid response. Editorial pages and political leaders of many stripes have call the official response "outrageous" and loudly condemned the U.S.'s presence in West Asia as disastrous for Americans and Asians alike.

Time will tell how all of this anti-American sentiment plays itself out in India, but for our family and others at the school it is frustrating to be targeted for the sins of a Bush administration that we vociferously oppose. We hope for opportunities for dialogue and mutual understanding.

Joe Roos was a founding member of the Sojourners community and the former publisher for Sojourners magazine.

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