Sheera Frenkel, BuzzFeed's excellent Middle East correspondent, is in Iraqi Kurdistan, where the United States is launching airstrikes to help Kurdish peshmerga fighters in their life-or-death struggle to expel the Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists who have been pushing into their territory, the latest crisis for Iraqi Kurds in decades of war and genocide.
But the immediacy of that crisis has apparently not prevented Iraq's Kurds from hearing about the mess in Ferguson, Missouri. One of them asked Frenkel about it. His question is so revealing that only someone thousands of miles away could ask it:
Today, an Iraqi Kurd asked me what the people of Furguson had done wrong & why the police were so angry at them. "I feel very bad for them."— Sheera Frenkel (@sheeraf) August 14, 2014
If you feel a sudden sinking feeling in your chest, that's you realizing this Iraqi Kurd's inevitable disappointment when he or she learns how America really works; that Ferguson's citizens are not being blanketed in tear gas because they erred and are being justly dispersed by the righteous American police force, as they'd assumed, but because there are deep, systemic problems in American criminal justice that have created what is widely seen as a national disgrace.
Out of all the people I have met, no group has seemed more consistently or enthusiastically pro-American than Kurds, so it's not surprising that Frenkel's contact there would assume that American police would only behave this way if the citizens of Ferguson really deserved it. But what we all know, as Americans who are familiar with our country's problems as well as its virtues, is that the truth is a lot uglier in Ferguson. Now this Iraqi Kurd knows it too. He or she, an Iraqi Kurd facing yet another existential threat from a genocidal invasion just miles away, feels sorry for them.