How we go about identifying ourselves is a compelling element which forever circles the spindle of our identities; but defining ones character, ones personhood, is not as simple as being born into citizenry – it is not just what we are defined as legally, but what we are, what we claim to be and that which we press tightly against in the oft-forgotten spaces within ourselves.
Fight to end war so there will be nothing to memorialise; no statues built, no nameless graves decorated with dying flowers and no long-winded tributes delivered by those who manufacture conflict – who do not enter the battlefield but send thousands to kill and mutilate and occupy on their behalf.
For the sake of those who’s heads have felt the sting of chemical weapons – who have watched pilgrimage sites become littered with dismembered nameless, faceless bodies.
For the sake of those who’ve felt steel-toed boots press against their skulls – who’ve seen thousands upon thousands pillage their land and occupy their homes.
For the sake of those who’ve lost their livelihood on the grounds of worthless ‘democracy’-in-name-only – who have given birth to children with deformity’s unlike any the world has seen before.
For the sake of those who have lost their children, their fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers – who have been on hunger strike for over 100 days or force fed while a commander in chief of “the free world” promises another “change” while drone-bombing another village.
For the sake of those who will not be memorialised, who will not receive a tribute – end the memorialization of war and instead fight to end war. This shall remain the greatest tribute to the victims of conflict.
My mothers personal story of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, translated from its original Arabic text.
Bleeding, after bleeding, after bleeding. War and destruction, murder and expulsion. Where is the way out? What is our destiny? Death is everywhere. There is no security under your sky, O Lebanon. There is no safety in your streets, O Beirut. It is death that comes where you don’t expect. It is death that will teach us life.
Here I am, bringing back a twenty eight year old memory, a memory that had passed, but not before taking with her all that is beautiful in my life.
Twenty eight years ago, I was living in what was called The Western Area in Beirut. It acquired that name after the civil war in Lebanon. My mom used to fear for us from the breath of air. We were all she had after my father’s passing away. I used to work in a bank. Then, I had to take two different buses to get from al-Shiyah to al-Barbir, and then to al-Masarif area where I worked, now called Downtown.
I remember one of these bloody days.
That day, after I finished work, I took my first bus to al-Barbir area. Once I arrived there, I heard a convulsing sound like thunder. It was the Israeli military planes. Horror crept into me.
I didn’t know which direction I should go. People were escaping the streets. Everyone was looking for rescue, for shelter. I started running, aimlessly.
I didn’t know the area or the streets. I saw a place where a lot of people gathered. I headed in their direction, hoping to find shelter. But how horrific was what I saw. They were not people. There were pieces, fragments of people carried into a nearby hospital. I knew then I was close to a hospital in Sabra area.
Oh dear God! What is this? It is a massacre! People are screaming insanely. The scream has gotten louder than the roaring of the planes. I didn’t know what I should do. I sat down where I am and started crying and talking to myself: what happened to my family? What am I to do?
I stayed where I am until the bombing became less intense.
I saw a taxi cab nearby and begged him to take me to my hometown. When I arrived there, I found a ghost town. No one in the streets except for my mom standing next to my house, waiting for me, with fear and tears in her eyes. She grabbed me in her arms and said: “Thank God you are OK. Go ahead and pack. We are not staying here anymore.”
We couldn’t find a car to take us to a safe place. All the roads were threatened with bombing. We had no choice. We had to stay in our house. And it wasn’t easy. Screaming was everywhere. People are racing one another to get what they need to survive. People were killed by Israeli bombs while trying to buy bread for their children. How difficult is life in the presence of people who have no mercy and where every life is threatened.
We stayed most of the time in the place we thought would be the safest in our house — the bathroom. It had a water pool on top of it. More than a week we were in this situation. Every hour and the other the building shakes as if it’s going to collapse on our heads. Each of us fears for the others as much as she fears for herself. And my mom is trying to distract us from the thought that we are on our way to die. Every now and then, she asks us to do some crochet and the likes of handiworks to distract us. We lost sense of night and day. The sky was bright all night with the bombs.
Once the bombing slowed down, our brother came to take us to the South because Israelis reached the borders of Beirut. And another torturous journey began. We had to pass through Israeli checkpoints, on foot, while carrying what we needed to survive. This is a different kind of torture. It’s the torture of humiliation to the occupier of our land. We stayed in the South for about a month. The Israelis used to intentionally humiliate us by entering our homes at any time they wanted, as if they owned, not only the land, but everything on it as well.
As soon as it became quieter in Beirut and the Israelis withdrew from there, we moved back. Later on, things were getting back to normal, and we were visiting my cousins in the South every weekend. But that weekend, I wish we hadn’t decided to go a little bit earlier than we used to. We arrived there to see my cousin, Huda, sitting with her friend having tea under an olive tree. When she saw us, she wondered humorously “You are not used to coming here this early! Who’s looking forward to die amongst you?” And she barely finished the sentence before a bomb drops on their heads. Oh, dear God! I wish I weren’t there to see my cousin, only 15 years old, dying in front of my eyes.
My brother hurried and put her in his arms while screaming: “No. No. Don’t die! We will bring the ambulance right now.” We all tried to do something to help, and we managed to put in her in a car quickly and headed to the closest hospital. But Huda died before we reached the hospital.
We had a breakdown. More than five girls were hit by this bomb. Some of them were paralyzed and some had terminal injuries. Even my uncle was badly injured. They killed her and mutilated the others mercilessly, and for no reason whatsoever.
Nevertheless, they could never kill our love for the land that was watered by the blood of our loved ones. It’s a bitter drink that we were forced to drink in Lebanon. But the days have taught us to not drink the bitter drinks separately, but drink it together. And we did, and we held our ground, and, eventually, we became victorious.
The blood has not yet dried on the streets of Boston after a horrific attack which left three dead and dozens injured, yet the question for many now is not the identity of the perpetrator but how long his beard is.
The local authorities have not identified any suspects yet a plethora of minds have clearly been made up as to who committed this abhorrent act; the hashtag #Muslims went on to trend for hours alongside #Muslims Did It:
After checking in with friends in Boston, making sure all those I knew in the area were safe and after posting, a number of times, locations of RedCross blood donation facilities in Massachusetts it came time to go through Twitter’s dreaded search bar to comb through reactions. The main words I chose were #Arab, #Muslim, #Islam and I was not disappointed: a wave of tweets blaming Muslims, applauding a popular call for the deaths of “all Muslims”, an incitement to violence tweeted by Fox News guest Erik Rush, and of course – the slurs: sand niggers, towelheads, sand monkey’s etc.
I will not forget Boston marathon terror…WHY!WHY! I really do not understand why muslims love terror? I do not understand.It is terrible.
— 윤소원 (@_Austin_Y) April 16, 2013
— lib fuktard (@prezobummer) April 16, 2013
“Not being racist but…”
Boston is a prime example of why I’m occasionally racist, is there something wrong with your brains you stinky rag head? — joel✟ (@JoelDonc) April 15, 2013
The New York Post alleged that a Saudi national had been caught after the attacks, but later authorities acknowledged that this was false, that there was no suspect – let alone a “Saudi”, but this did not stop others from attacking Arabs en masse as a result of such poor, hysterical journalism:
A Saudi is a suspect in the bombing, figures. Fucking sand nigger — Buckwild Walker (@walker_1994) April 15, 2013
Well, they caught the towelhead that bombed us earlier today. Fuck that guy. — Jonathan (@Jonathanqt) April 16, 2013
“fucking jihad towelhead motherfuckers” – my mom’s take on the bombings in Boston — b-robs (@VaniIlaThunder) April 16, 2013
Who the fuck bombs the finish line of a marathon??? Grow some fuckin balls u towelhead pricks, ur god dosent love u and u fuckin stink — colin landers (@LandersColin) April 15, 2013
Patriot Day? Tax Day? Boston, home of the Tea Party? Obviously these bombings were perpetrated by Muslims. Or maybe illegal aliens. — SpikePriggen (@spikepriggen) April 16, 2013
I hope somewhere in some bar in Boston some towelhead walks in n some drunken Mick spits in his stupid sand monkey face — browny (@browntown00) April 16, 2013
what the actutal fuck is this world turning into? what did the good people of boston ever do to you fucking sand monkey — Rachel Beatrice (@Raychhh_) April 15, 2013
@trumpetman Then 40% of US Muslims need to find a new country to live in.
— john betts (@JohnFromCranber) April 16, 2013
Bombing in Boston, probably some fucking raghead sand monkey mother fuckers — imahugedeushebag(@nickpandanell) April 15, 2013
And then of course there were the calls to violence:
I wouldn’t join the war to fight for my country; I hate America. I would join the war to kill those fucking towelhead Taliban fuckers. — Rairai (@cheaplines) April 15, 2013
Fuckin’ sand niggers attackin’ us on our home front agian! This is mother fuckin’ bullshit! Kill those mother fuckers. — Darrin Montgomery (@Hellbilly_95) April 16, 2013
There are more outright racist, unashamedly vile tweets documented by Public Shaming, a page created by Matt Binder dedicated to exposing “tweets of privilege.” And then there is the plane headed to Chicago which was forced back to Logan Airport, located in the East Boston neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, after passengers heard two men sitting next to each other speaking Arabic. Glenn Greenwald writes in the Guardian:
The rush, one might say the eagerness, to conclude that the attackers were Muslim was palpable and unseemly, even without any real evidence.
[...] the rush to proclaim the guilty party to be Muslim is seen in particular over and over with such events. Recall that on the day of the 2011 Oslo massacre by a right-wing, Muslim-hating extremist, the New York Times spent virtually the entire day strongly suggesting in its headlines that an Islamic extremist group was responsible, a claim other major news outlets (including the BBC and Washington Post) then repeated as fact. The same thing happened with the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, when most major US media outlets strongly suggested that the perpetrators were Muslims.
And though these comments appearing online may come across as meaningless, knee-jerk reactions, they are important and must be addressed with as much passion as one would any other calls to violence or racism. Even persons of colour who are often mistaken for being Muslim, due to their complexion or accents or even religious garb, continue to face relentless attacks. In December a man was killed after pushed onto subway rails of an active train in Queens, New York by a woman who thought him to be Muslim: “I pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims ever since 2001 when they put down the twin towers I’ve been beating them up.” Twitter was overcome by despicable xenophobia and Islamophobia to such a degree that people took notice and began sending out warnings to people of colour (POC) in the area who may face backlash:
POC in the area – please stay safe. Muslim accusation are already running wild. I’m nervous for the way people might act crazy. — XXX (@hjaybee) April 15, 2013
Second that. Be careful, folks. RT @legyptian Arabs, Muslims, Brown and Black People – STAY HOME
— sophia عزب azeb (@brownisthecolor) April 15, 2013
Islamophobia is real, it is palpable, it is present – but there also exists, shoulder to shoulder, a bit of compassion. Not apologia or tokenization but fellow feeling, an honest and open goodwill of sorts; many on Twitter sort of took over the #Muslims hashtag and began sending out tweets of empathy, of reason and of kindness:
Hope people don’t go on the “Muslims did it” bandwagon. Don’t be an idiot and know the facts first.
— JJ (@KSIOlajidebt) April 15, 2013
This, from 2010, is worth sharing again – particularly today: “All Terrorists are Muslims…Except the 94% that Aren’t” bit.ly/aiqIEx
— Chris Stedman (@ChrisDStedman) April 16, 2013
The societal modus operandi of elevating Arab and Muslims to the level of guilt strips one from the ability to grievetinyurl.com/cfvwu3k
— Verso Books(@VersoBooks) April 16, 2013
For every person hoping Boston Marathon bombers won’t turn out to be Muslims, there’s some professional bigot desperately hoping they will.
— Abe Greenhouse (@grinhoyz) April 16, 2013
I’d like to think since 9/11, the US and humanity in general has wised up in the Muslims vs terrorists distinction. Don’t let me down, world
— Asteris Masouras (@asteris) April 15, 2013
— Timothy DeLaGhetto (@Traphik) April 15, 2013
And so it must be said, that though it is often difficult to hear humanity over the racket of gunfire, it is there; even amidst tragedy there is laughter.
I loathe the premise that people of colour should be ‘grateful’ that others are taking notice of their subjugation, or that they should bite their tongues and clench their fists and instead show gratitude because their varied plights are being in some way ‘acknowledged‘ by others.
“Shouldn’t you be glad that people are recognizing these issues?” is the arrogant lamentation which customarily follows even the most caustious criticism of these perverse pseudo-solidarity actions – FEMEN’s nude predominantly white, predominantly thin photo-ops “for Amina“, a 19 year-old Tunisian woman who posed for them with the words “my body belongs to me, it is not the source of anyone’s honour” scrawled across her torso, being the latest example, and KONY2012 being an earlier one. This aforementioned response contends that we should withhold criticism, alleging that even being ‘noticed‘ should be good enough.
I did not identify as a feminist long ago, in fact I would squirm, roll my eyes, groan and shoo away any mention of feminism with a simple wave of my hand. Feminism was a word I detested, that I deplored, that I viewed as nothing more than a means to strap myself boldly to the very mechanism which has for so long abused so many and prolonged the imperialist adventures across my land, and others. And why? Why would I have denounced feminism, whilst I now unashamedly hold it tightly in the palms of my hands?
Here are 5 drone-themed Valentine’s day cards I have created, for that special someone in your life.