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:
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.)