Don’t ‘Kiss’ Your Heritage ‘Goodbye’

I have two writing assignments I should be working on as of now. One is a term paper due in a week on “anything” in Arab Thought. (Since I mention this, I’ll also mention the fact that this – for me-, as my friend had stated it, “is a curse and a blessing.” It’s a curse because I don’t know what to do. It’s a blessing because I can write about “anything”). The second assignment is a journal entry in which I have to reflect on a certain essay titled “Kiss of Death” by Armando Rendon. As I read this essay, there were many times where I nodded my head because I knew exactly what the writer meant.

Rendon goes on to talk about his Hispanic heritage, and how “Seldom during college did I admit to being a Mexican-American”.

He says, “Even when my mother, who speaks both Spanish and English fluently, spoke to me in Spanish, I would respond in English”.

I lived a good part of my childhood in the States. I went to a public elementary school by the name of J.C. Ellis, and good number of Arabs went to the school with me. I picked up English quickly, although my first language is Arabic. Even still, so I’d keep Arabic in my studies, my parents would send my brother and I to an Arabic- Islamic school every Sunday. A good number of my Arab Muslim friends attended that school with me.

Then, I moved to Occupia*. Even in Occupia*, I attended a school that had an English- speaking section. This  meant that I learned everything in English with one course of Arabic, 6-7 times a week. Still, mostly everything was in English. The friends I made spoke English. I had started replying to things said to me in Arabic in English…And people ask why? I’ll get to that in a minute.

When people I haven’t seen in a while come to visit in the summers, they are amazed that my brother and I still know our English. They say things like, “We thought you’d forgotten it”. Some say, “But you’ve been living here (in Occupia) for so long, now”. Still, others would say, “Why don’t you speak Arabic?”

Those questions among others are simply annoying. First of all, I don’t understand how I could forget a language I used in my studies each single year during my school years. I’ve lived here for so long….and? Oh, and I do speak Arabic. I understand Arabic. I read and write in Arabic.

What is annoying in fact is when I walk in Ramallah with a friend, for example, and we’re speaking English, and all of a sudden, an annoying person (if you read a previous post I posted mentioning the annoying guys in Ramallah) passes by making the comment “Why are you speaking English? You are Arabian”. Why, thank you for telling me. I would have forgotten otherwise.

To answer the question that I posed a few paragraphs earlier, I speak English because I have always spoke English. I speak English because I am able to express myself more since my Arabic vocabulary isn’t well-developed, yet. I speak English because I can speak in whatever language I want.

I love the Arabic language. I hope one day that it is well-developed in me or relatively developed so I can write posts in Arabic. I love reading Arabic poetry and stories, even if I have to read them over several of times to get the meaning. I would never deny my Arabic heritage. That is not why I speak English. I do not think I am “American”, as some tend to say and give me a look of disgust. I am a person who lived in a different country. As the world works, one tends to learn the language of the country one is living in. Don’t mistake me or anyone else that speaks English for denying their heritage without understanding why they speak in a certain language more than another.

I see why the writer chose the title “Kiss of Death”. A kiss is supposed to be something sweet. If you want me to be fluffy and cute about it, a kiss is supposed to be “magical”. Death isn’t magical in the ‘Walt Disney World’ sense of magical that I’m thinking of. Death is the end. The kiss of death for the writer is the “Anglo kiss of death”, as he states. Mine would be- if I allowed it to be- the death of my Arabic heritage in me because of the English ‘sleeping beauty’ kiss. I won’t allow it to be that way, though. My heritage is a part of me.  I do not deny it nor will anyone ‘kiss’ it good-bye for me.



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