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Musings

Identity Crisis

I was born in the Middle East. I grew up in the Middle East. I hold a Middle Eastern passport and I speak the Middle Eastern language. My parents are both from the Middle East and their families as well. I, however, do not consider myself a Middle Eastern. To be part of something, one must belong to it. I, sadly, do not belong.

Call it unpatriotic, insanity, or rebellion. I see no point in labeling me to a piece of land. A piece of land that some foreigner decided to idly conquer on a map. I cannot call myself an Arab, simply because I speak the language and hold the papers. Papers in the end are nothing but that, papers. I cannot call myself an Arab, for there is nothing Arab about my manner. I walk around all day trying to mimic the lives of Westerners. People that share very little of what I should believe in. People that know nothing of my religion, my heritage, my culture, and my background. People that when asked to point at a map, would fail to tell me where I come from. No. I am not calling all Westerners ignorant, because that would mean I am doing exactly what they do to me, I am generalizing. I am not a Westerner. Just because I know about their history, heritage, background and language does not mean I belong.

We are a generation of homeless souls, treading along uncharted territories. Our territories are intangible. We are not the children of the world; we do not have the audacity to become the children of the revolution. We are just children. Children with hearts terrified of leaving our playgrounds. We are children fastened to a fast world that we can’t seem to compete in. We are children that simply cannot seem to grow up. Our identities seem to be wasted before they become defined.

When asked who I am, the typical response would be:

“Suad Shamma”

When faced with the question again, I, of course, would give more details:

“I am 24 years old, I grew up here, I was born there, I went to AUS, I studied Communications…”

And the list goes on.

This has sadly become our identity. These mindless, benign, unnecessary details define me. What about it defines me? Where in this does my heritage come in? How does this explain who I am? These are merely a series of coincidences that I have no control over. Furthermore, what little choices I do have, are no choices of my own. I simply am what circumstances have made me. Is my identity based on circumstances alone then?  When probed further, I may say:

“I listen to The Beatles, I like to watch Friends, I read Shakespeare, and I enjoy dancing.”

These are the choices I make. Notice how the media is directly involved in all of them. Notice how it’s all Western media. Notice how none of this is Middle Eastern. Notice how I can’t call myself a Middle Eastern yet. Now, perhaps if I had said I listened to some renowned Arabic singer, or I read some famous Arabic book, maybe if I said I read the Quran. Maybe then I’d be an Arab. Now, I sadly cannot say I watch Arabic movies and call myself a true Middle Easterner, since lately, all of the Arabic media seems to be heavily borrowed from the Western Media. Our newspapers were copies of the prevailing English copies, our radios were mere imitations of the German Radio programs, and our TV shows are now mostly nothing but Arabic copies of Western shows. Not only does the story line mimic the Westerners, but the values and the way it is shot and revealed to the audience is very Western. Which is surprising enough because Arabs are the ones with the ancient traditions of story telling.

You know what the irony of all of this is? Although most of our lives, most of my life, I try to be nothing but a Westerner, an American to be precise, yet the view that Americans have of me is revolting. I don’t understand why I strive to be something that a) I will never be and b) I am not wanted to be. I want to identify with the American teenager and with the American dream because it seems to be a dream that works for many. I clearly am willing to throw away everything my ancestors fought for to ‘fit in’. To fit into a society that does nothing but reject me. That is why I believe that I do not belong. That I will never belong. I will never belong because I insist on belonging in a world that clearly does not want me to be there. I went to an American school. I listen to American music. I read American literature. I speak English with an American accent. I watch American movies. I even dress American. Yet, I honestly do not want to be American. I clearly am very confused. I don’t think a thousand words does the question of my identity any justice. I think I have spent the past 24 years of my life fighting for an identity that I have no clear image of.

Quite honestly, I started this with a clear image of what I was going to write. I was going to say that having an identity is quite pointless and unnecessary. However, I have come to realize that it is impossible to not have an identity. Everything I say or do defines my identity. I was going to say that globalization is inevitable, and that we will eventually all become one. However, I find that idea repulsive now. We have become a world of followers, even our leaders are followers. And all I seem to be able to do is blame people for our lack of individuality and identity. It is no fault but my own that I have an identity crisis to start with. It is no fault but our own that we are going through a generation of lost souls. For a thing to be lost, it must be forgotten. And we have forgotten what it is to be Arab.

Who am I?

I am not a Middle Eastern and I am not proud.

(N.B. this is the same post you will find in my about page, but I felt it deserved its own space. Hence, the re-post.)

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About smshamma

"I'm selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control, and at times hard to handle, but if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best." - Marilyn Monroe

Discussion

20 thoughts on “Identity Crisis

  1. That is really attention-grabbing, You’re an excessively good blogger. I have joined your rss feed and look forward to more great posts. Also, I have shared your site on google+!

    Posted by Mamie Dicocco | April 26, 2012, 23:50
  2. Notice the difference in the number of comments between this piece and other pieces you wrote. Not speaking on behalf of everyone, but this post left us (or me) speechless — because of how hard it hit us (or me) on the head.

    That being said, I enjoy the positive side of things a little bit more. I do think that our identity is shaped by our personal or others’ experiences. Which is precisely why when being exposed to various cultures we tend to get a little confused about our identities. That is the beauty of it, its like you said, when asked: “who are you?” you’d simply response by saying me — that way you can maintain your individuality and own set of characteristics. How lame would it be if all people of one culture spoke one language, ate one kind of food, listened to one type of music, etc? The majority of people to some degree are a mix of different things. Its what makes us unique. The problem is when we blindly become followers of pretty much everything thrown us. The western culture is not perfect, but neither is the arab or any other culture. They all have their pros and cons (duh). Consider every culture to be a fruit basket, and through life you’re constantly picking out different fruits from different baskets — just make sure you pick the ripe ones.

    Cheer up! You don’t have to entirely belong to a given culture to be proud. Be proud of who you are as a person, and of your family and friends who appreciate you for it.

    Posted by putaneyeonit | April 28, 2012, 14:51
  3. Wonderful goods from you, man. I’ve read your previous stuff too and you are just too excellent. I actually like what you have here, really like what you are saying and the way in which you say it. You make it entertaining and yet you still make it wise. I cant wait to read much more from you. Great blog.

    Posted by Rafaela Dubberly | May 11, 2012, 15:39
  4. Very good articles you have. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and beliefs and experiences with us.

    Posted by friteuse sans huile | May 21, 2012, 04:27
  5. I don’t usually comment but I have to say this post is great :D.

    Posted by cliquez sur le lien | May 21, 2012, 05:17
  6. Simply a smiling visitor here to share the love (:, btw outstanding style of writing.

    Posted by robot menager multifonction | May 21, 2012, 19:45
  7. Wise words indeed..really enjoyed this piece..it echoed in me in what i feel at times..the difference being, my people want to retain thier culture of ancient traditions..they live in the 18th century where honour, chivalry still prevails and yet the world misjudges them for this very reason..of retianing everything of thier proud culture that they have..Be happy for the way you are and what you have have become within..

    Posted by Nomad | June 20, 2012, 22:44
  8. مصطلح “الشرق الأوسط” يعبر عن امتداد سياسي خلقته الهبات ا الاستعمارية الي سيطرت على المنطقة بعد الحرب العالمية الأولى :) و بالتالي جدودك و جدودي الي عم تحكي عنهم ما كان عندهم صبغة شرق أوسطية، و هاد إله علاقة وثيقة الارتباط بطريقة تعبيرنا عن حالنا… بحب أحكي معك أكتر بالموضوع لو ما عندك مانع….

    Posted by أسيل | March 1, 2013, 12:09
  9. you made me think! great work.

    Posted by elyazia | March 1, 2013, 12:24
  10. Very thought provoking, Suad. I think you have captured eloquently how quite a few people (both East and West) perceive and question their identity, yet may never say it aloud. My eyes have been opened since moving here from the ‘West’ and I think it is through exchanges like your blog that the negative perceptions of Middle Eastern culture and people can be halted. Thanks for sharing.

    Posted by GPBargull | March 2, 2013, 08:49
  11. I was both a bit stunned – and pleased – that on online acquaintance (he knows better than to meet me at the bar after my AA meetings) recently pressed a bold defence for the dignity of muslims and those living in the Middle East.

    It is a great post exactly because it is so needed to counter hysterias fed by our misinformation – or a paucity of information.

    And to be brutally honest? I have to face my own fears and blind spots from news stories about Middle East intolerance of other religions, homophobia, democracy, and womens’ rights.

    For anyone wishing to read his brief defence: http://www.gather.com/viewArticle.action?articleId=281474981641934

    Kudos to you for presenting an engaging rapprochement holding vulnerable emotional appeal, Miss Shamma.

    Posted by Hyper Intellect | March 18, 2013, 08:27

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  1. Pingback: Identity Crisis « One of the blogs - August 20, 2012

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