The person I'm chatting with is a Middle Eastern man. I've asked him the same question that I've been starting to ask a few of my friends here: "What do you think America needs to know about the Middle East and Muslims?"
The answer is always pretty much the same, and this particular man (I'll call him Amir) put it quite succinctly:
"Islam does not promote, sponsor, condone or encourage terrorism or murder."
I asked another person (I'll call him Ahmed) this same question, and though he gave a similar answer, it took a while for him to give it. He said answering that question was useless, that there was no point in trying to make the West believe anything good of the East. I hassled him just a little, in a nice way. In addition to what Amir said, Ahmed answered, "We are not terrorists...we f---ing hate the muslim terrorists." Following this was a long release of frustration about how his part of the world, his religion, his culture, and himself were discriminated against. World events are taken personally, though he himself never personally offended anyone from the other side of the world.
From the answers to my question, I've been picking up on the same root. When I look a little deeper, I see that my friends, students, neighbors seem to echo the same response: "I didn't do anything wrong. Why am I being punished for something I didn't do?"
I don't know what it was exactly that made me begin asking my question, and I don't exactly know what to do with the answers except to just listen. I hope that by asking and listening some understanding or compassion might steal its way into places it didn't exist before.