the strangerI've been meaning to talk about the frequency with which the word "haji" is used by American soldiers to describe Arabs. What's becoming more interesting, though, is the way the term has jumped the fence. Two examples:
1.) A U.S. soldier in uniform is waiting in the service line at a dining facility at Camp Buehring, Kuwait. She is, to judge by her appeareance and name, of Filipino descent. The "TCNs" -- third country nationals -- who work for the food service contractor in the dining facility are, yes, Filipino. Talking to a friend about the Filipino who served her food to her, the soldier calls him "the haji." (A friend here saw this one.)
2.) A U.S. soldier in uniform walks into a very large, very crowded dining room at Camp Buehring wearing a yarmulke. A group of very young PFCs, all wearing the shoulder patch of the 4th Infantry Division, notice the soldier in the yarmulke and are confused by his weird hat. They think out loud, trying to figure out what's up with that shit: "Is he, like, a haji guy?" one asks. (This one I saw myself.)
An infinitely plastic, infinitely lazy, and infinitely malevolent word, this one. It neatly sums up a whole sad cultural sloppiness and indifference -- about which the less said the better, for now. It's the answer when we can't be bothered to find the answer. Which is, apparently, pretty much all the time.