You’ve probably gotten an email at least once in the past 11 years entitled “The Budweiser Story”. As had become her habit with other similar emails prior to her death, my grandmother forwarded it to me on September 10, 2009 after having received it from another of her friends, pretty much without having read it beforehand. As I had done with most of the things she forwarded to me, I deleted it without reading it. However, my sister later replied to grandma, indicating that she didn’t like the content of the story.
So I went ahead and read it, and afterward decided to send the following message to everyone I could see in the thread who had forwarded it down the line (only 9 people) — none of whom I knew personally. I considered sending it to everyone to whom it had been forwarded, but I’d like to think of them as innocent bystanders in the whole mess.
I’m interested to see what kind of responses I get now, particularly with a few more years’ worth of contemplation time since I originally wrote the reply. At the time, not a single one of the people I addressed it to replied.
You probably don’t know me, and have never even heard my name. I’m no one especially noteworthy, famous or even a public figure. I received the email below from one of the many people to whom you (and everyone previous to you) forwarded it. Normally when an email like this arrives in my inbox, I dismiss it outright and send it straight to my trash folder. However, this being the eve of September 11th (when I began writing this), I feel compelled to respond to the content — and apparent intent — of the story with an account of my own, concerning Arabic-speaking people with whom I was familiar at the time.
On September 11th, 2001, I arrived at my office in San Francisco having already heard the horrible news about the airplane crashes in New York and Washington, DC. While the details about the identities and origins of the hijackers had not yet been confirmed, it was already clear that these were deliberate attacks. The suggestion that they had been carried out by Middle Easterners (or Muslims) was widely inferred and conjectured, but hadn’t yet been positively determined.
A friend and coworker of mine, who was a resident alien from Morocco (he has since become a citizen of the United States), told me he had a bad feeling about how anyone who looked and sounded similar to him would be treated following the day’s events. As he walked home that very afternoon, a man yelled at him from across the street, calling him a terrorist. In the weeks and months that followed, he described to me some of the subsequent harassment to which he was subjected, as well as the long periods of unprovoked questioning by the FBI that friends of his in our local Middle Eastern and North African communities were put through.
Within a week of the attacks, a customer of ours — a naturalized US citizen who had immigrated from the Middle East many years before — not only had anti-Muslim graffiti sprayed on the outside of his popular Mission District cafe, but was also the victim of a brick thrown through his business’ front window. His cafe was later the location of a mayoral meeting and press conference calling for tolerance towards the Middle Eastern and North African communities. Other customers of ours — some of whom weren’t from the regions in question but were from India, Indonesia or had even been born in the United States — also reported harassment and defacement of property.
Note that snopes.com — a trusted website dedicated to the verification of internet and email stories such as this one — provides proof that the incident didn’t happen:
Over and above proving the falsehood of “The Budweiser Story”, the article indicates that the original tale has been further embellished in the years since its original circulation. There is also a reference to other, similar stories that have circulated in the intervening years:
A simple web search on Google, Yahoo! or other search engines, using key words such as “September 11th”, “Sikh”, “Muslim”, “beaten”, “harassed”, etc. points to dozens, perhaps hundreds or thousands, of similar, verifiable incidents in which people — often American citizens — were falsely and unjustly attacked simply because they looked or sounded “funny”.
Think about it: Have you ever personally seen a donut shop employee burn the American Flag? Did you personally hear a convenience store owner joke and laugh about the events of September 11th? Have you personally seen or heard anything like that at all? Now think about whether you personally have ever heard slurs about Muslims, Indians, Asians or anyone else for that matter.
You may say that your right to free speech makes it okay to disseminate information like this email. I’m a veteran of the United States Army and the Desert Storm campaign, and have therefore defended — and will ever continue to defend — your right to say or write whatever you want (barring libel or slander). But as you surely would in all other things, I ask that you temper your participation in spreading stories like this one with moral, ethical consideration for the potential consequences of your actions.
Thanks for your attention.