The Trip Home: Anniversary June Part 2

The trip home does not end when the airplane lands in Jordan. It begins.

The taxi radio was on. The radio talk show host was talking about how the next day marks 69 years since the occupation of Palestine. She began talking about the problems in Palestine, the negotiations that died long ago but politicians keep bringing up – as if there is a hidden message we have failed to catch – , the prisoner hunger strike, the, the, the…the list went on.

I was still in Jordan. I would be for a while. I wondered how, for the past 69 years on May 15th, things have not changed…not for the better. I wondered how many more generations will come and hear that for so and so years, things have not changed…not for the better. I will wonder this again, around a week later, when President Donald Trump comes to Palestine.

The next day, I get a message from a dear friend:

“How ironic you arrive on the day we were displaced.”

And my thoughts continued to struggle between the past and the future…when Palestinians were displaced and when they…if they will come back.

On Going to The Theater Alone: Anniversary June Part 1

I walked into a theater alone once. I was bored, and it was cold, so, I walked in the rain a few blocks to the nearest theater from my place of residence. I bought a ticket to the movie Loving, based on the true story of Mildred and Richard Loving’s fight for interracial marriage versus Virginia. It has been fifty years since that case, and this June has held a number of significant…anniversaries, if you will, of which more I will write about in the near future.

I walked into the theater alone, and I felt awkward. Who goes into a theater alone? Well, it turns out, more people than I thought. In a theater of six people that came to watch the movie, four were sitting alone.

As I watched the movie, my mind kept turning and twisting the question: Why does society makes us think that being alone or doing things alone, like watching a movie or traveling, is lonely? Why does society pity those who choose to walk alone?

I don’t know what need society wants to fulfill by slapping on labels or choosing what is the “norm” and what is not, but from my almost-a-year away from a place I call home, my friends and family, I learned that regardless of what society thinks, it is okay to want to be alone. Technology and social media make it difficult to be secluded completely, but it is okay to want to break away and be with yourself for some time. It is okay to get to know yourself on your own. It is okay to sit in a coffee shop by yourself or go watch a movie. You start listening to yourself – hearing what your mind, body and soul want and need so that when you decide to hang out with the rest of the human population, you know what is worth your time and what is not.

The 3rd World Countries You Come From

“So is it considered a 3rd world country?”

Cringe. Didn’t they stop saying “third world”? 

“I’ve been to a third world country. It was beautiful. But, like, people like going to those places.”

Those places? Why the stress on ‘those’? Stress on what was once unstressed. 

“We have to remember. They’re still third world countries.”

You don’t have to remind us. We have to remember why they’re still, as you put it. 

 

 

People from Over There

“I read so much about Afghanistan. It’s a shame what is happening over there.”

Over there. 

My father and I were at the register when the woman at the regiter began speaking about the books she reads, where she checks them out, and the episodes of National Geographic she watches. We looked foreign to her. We looked like people from over there. 

“Yeah, well, war does that,” my father began. “Just like what is happening in Iraq and Syria.” I wondered if my father was thinking of the Syria and Iraq my grandfather – his father – would tell us about. I was thinking about how his eyes would almost begin to sparkle when he’d say, “Baghdad kanat Baghdad.” Baghdad was Baghdad.

“Yes, yes. It’s a shame. I believe everyone deserves equality. No one should live like that in Afghanistan.”

“We’re actually from Palestine, anyways,” my father responded.

“Hmph.”

Hmph. The number of times I heard that hmph. 

“It’s a shame for the people of Afghanistan. I’m going to keep reading about it,” she said as she printed out the receipt.

“Yeah, you keep reading,” my father told her.

“And praying. Reading does no good. Praying does it,” she replied.

“Then, pray for equality.”

Later that day, my father asked me, “How many books do you think they need to read before they finally get it?”

 

Conversation with Grandma: Before the immigration ban

I would say that a good deal of my over decade long stay in Palestine was spent around my grandparents homes. Some of my favorite memories growing up in Palestine revolve around my maternal grandparents’ home. I especially enjoyed my grandmother’s conversations with her daughters – my mother and her sisters – and her friends and neighbors. I loved going there in the afternoon and listening to the current gossip in the “grandmothers’ clan” and hear the plot of the story change with each person adding to the conversation.

I also loved when the conversations get political. The comments were not based on any specific ideology or analysis, but it was based on what they truly thought…with no filter, if I made add.

So naturally, when President Donald Trump was running for president, I wanted my grandmother’s and her friends’ inputs on it. So, I would ask, “What if he starts kicking us (Muslims, Arabs, etc.) out?”

One of my grandmother’s friends, who has never left the country, would say, “Good. Everyone in the [Palestinian] diaspora would come back here, then.”

My grandmother, who is a U.S. citizen, would agree and add, “I only go to America for medical check-ups.”

Shortly after Trump won the election, I was visiting my grandmother, and I falsely told her that Trump is kicking all of us (Muslims, Arabs, etc.) out, even those with U.S. citizenship. (Yes, my grandmother and I analyze false scenarios). What did she tell me?

“I have a U.S. passport. He can’t.”

For my grandmother and myself, the conversation ends there until we are told otherwise…until another executive order arises adding more characteristics to the community that should be “banned from entering.” However, to so many others – to green card holders, to visa holders, to refugees – the conversation continues.

 

 

 

 

Where The Journey Begins

“My teacher asked me if I was Amreekia today,” my youngest sibling told me over the phone. Her teacher had asked the question because she noticed she caught on English quicker than the other students.

Amreekia. American.

“And what did you say?” I asked her.

“I said…I told her no. I’m not.”

“Well, what are you then?” I asked with a mount of curiousity at what her answer will be.

“I’m Falasteenia.”

Falasteenia. Palestinian.

If someone ever told me that my youngest sibling would tell me things that would have me reflecting on my past, I would have probably shook my head. Yet, in just a few words, she managed to take me back to the beginning of my journey with identity…my American-ness and my Palestinian-ness…I am never quite enough of each in the eyes of others.

My youngest sibling’s journey starts out in Palestine. Her vacation destination is the United States. She notices that she can go to America, and some of her relatives cannot. In contrast, my journey started out in the U.S. My vacation destination was Palestine. I noticed that I would go there in the summer, and my American friends did not know where I was going.

I remember two vivid moments when I realized I was also from somewhere else. The first was the language I spoke and how all I wanted to do on my first day of kindergarten was look for someone who spoke Arabic like me. The second was when my parents watched and commented on the news of what was going on in Palestine. I remember the television showing images of Palestinians throwing rocks and Israeli tanks roaming the streets.

My youngest sibling has me wondering. Does the search for identity start where the individual’s journey begins? Or does is it start when we are asked if we’re from somewhere else – and we are?

 

 

 

 

Obama’s era: Transitioning feelings

I don’t quite remember what the assignment entailed days after the Barack Obama’s victory speech in 2008, but I remember exactly what I prepared for it. I dug into the closet where my father had folded a few of his ties and pulled out a blue patterned one – or not that I think of it, was it red? – and I opened my laptop and watche Obama’s victory speech over and over again. I studied his body language, and I listened closely to the stresses. I printed out the transcript of the speech and highlighted the parts that I was going to say – by heart – for the assignment. I suppose you can imagine the assignment had something to do with public speaking.

On the day of presentations, I wore the tie around my school uniform collar shirt and got up to present Obama’s victory speech as said by me. I imagine I did a pretty good job because I, like Obama, got a good wave of applause from my high school classroom.

“Yes we can.” For a high school student, those three words meant everything. They meant that if you dream, you can, just like Obama. Here he was, standing on stage in Chicago, as the first black President-elect.

However, come his 2012 victory speech – and up until the moment he bid farewell to the White House – I have had mixed feelings about Obama. He has a vibrant personality. He is a charismatic individual. And he is a great speech presenter. However, I once read somewhere that “personality doesn’t trump policy.” I agree with this statement in the case of Obama’s administration. I did not agree with Obama’s foreign policy, and that, at the time of living in the Middle East, is what concerned me. I smiled when I saw Obama’s appearances on different television shows, but I was quick to remember that his administration’s foreign policy was…heinous, and you can read more about how it affected the Arab world here.

As I was watching the pictures of Obama looking out of the helicopter window at the White House, I felt sad and angry at the same time. Sad because it is the end of an “era” as they say, but angry for two reasons: one being who office is for now.

I want to find a reason to thank Obama like many of my friends are thanking him, but I can’t find it. I think of all the times his administration could have stood up for justice in the world but didn’t. That’s the second reason I am angry. Some will argue and say that America isn’t everyone’s savior. Then, why is America up in everyone’s business?

Obama’s administration may have done great things. Obama may have led office with grace. But “personality doesn’t trump policy” for me.

He leaves office to an unpredictable man – a man who has a greater potential to make things worse for Americans and the world. I sit in a coffee ship and watch people as the buy coffee and go off to the “Women’s March” with posters like “Liar in chief.” I wonder where we go from here, as Americans and as global citizens.

 

 

Apology Turned Euology: A Poem

 

Reading your name

it took me a few moments to realize

we have met before.

We have spoken months ago.

And I wish I had given you an apology.

I apologize that it has taken us more than the years

you’ve lived to end this occupation.

I wish I had given you an apology

every time you called me khalto 

on the ten-minute drive home

before I wrote you this euology.