A Country I Could Call Home, an open letter from an Armenian-Syrian DACA recipient


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Since the “victory” of Donald J. Trump, white nationalism has removed its own veil.

Layers and layers.

It has always existed. In fact, it is the original sin of America.

Even when I arrived here in 1995, I felt it.

It was all around me. I could smell it. I could taste it.

I hated it; and I knew what it was responsible for.

My fellow minorities. My own people. Me.

I didn’t learn I was “undocumented” until I turned 16.

My mother turned to me and said “Danny you aren’t like the other kids. You don’t have … papers… you can’t work.”

I was quite emotional. I didn’t take it well. How could anyone? The strange thing is, I kind of knew the implications. I always knew something was off about our stay here in America. Something was always wrong.

Even in the Middle East, we lived in Riyadh, and for a Syrian mother and Syrian-Armenian father, nothing could be further out of place for us.

It was as though America  was always our destination. Our salvation.

But even upon our coming here – the struggle persisted.

20 years later, 2017 it continues.

2008 was our 1960. President Obama was elected. For the bitter colonial minded minorities it was “nothing to be proud about”. They’d returned to the slave mentality. For white nationalists, it was spelling the beginning of their doom.

His middle name was Hussein. And for a brown (olive) kid like me, it warmed my heart a little.

Then he passed DACA.

For a decade, I had lived as a ghost in a country that rejected me.

I worked under the table jobs.

But I cherish those moments. Some of the best moments of my life.

It was my version of the American Dream, the only difference is, my story would never be told. It would never be embraced. Because the majority of America is white, and doesn’t sympathize with the minority struggle.

That is precisely why the current president is a white supremacist.

I remember working with hispanics, moroccans, Jews, Tunisians & Libyans. We come from the Middle East (West Asia) where taboos prevent women from working and such. But America was much different. My mother could barely speak english. In less than 5 years, she became the manager of a jewelry store, financed my entire education and my sister’s education, cooked and cleaned for us, while my father worked tirelessly. All this and could barely make ends meet. I remember countless arguments over debts and money shortages. It was traumatic as a kid. I think I still have anxiety as a result of it. But the love was there. And so was our faith. We could never be separated. Not then, not now, not ever!

Things were different back then. Before 9/11 – people could find work opportunities and even go to school if their papers weren’t exactly “straight”. After 9/11 everything changed.

When I found out I could not attend university after high school I was devastated. All the work I put in meant nothing.

In my younger days my parents worked so much and my older sister was so occupied with school I spent most of days with friends, most of whom were ethnic of the lower stratum of the American socio-economic sphere.

That’s when I started diving into my creative side, inspired by my grandfather. Yervant Krikorian was the first Armenian-Syrian to ever attend MIT. Yes, you read that right. MIT, the famed technological institute in Boston. The problem was he didn’t stay long enough in the US for us to earn citizenship through him. He returned to Syria due to family circumstances and financial shortcomings. He earned his PhD; but his dreams were never realized.

I was meant to live out that dream.

My father would always tell me tales of our “fabled” Armenian royal ancestry and the magnificent wonder of my grandfather; the elegance of my great grandmother, a Cypriot-Armenian. I appreciated this all so much, but tragically it didn’t match up to the reality I faced as an immigrant at the bottom of the barrel.

Fast forward to 2017.

Currently I am a graduate student of political science at the University of Central Florida. It was Obama’s legislation that made this possible. Before DACA, I was even denied entry to a community college. It was literally through the miraculous help of a sympathetic hispanic lady that I managed to register at a local community college. But when Obama passed DACA, I was finally able to attend university. Even though I had the grades, I couldn’t before. I was in AP classes in high school. But it didn’t matter. Anyway, I was finally in at UCF – although at first, they too almost denied me for bureaucratic reasons. They literally didn’t even know what DACA was at the registration office it seemed. When I handed them my “Employment Authorization ID” they were dumbfounded. It was amazing that I could finally attend a major university. But because I was denied all forms of scholarships or federal financial aid which I overwhelmingly qualified for, I had to work during my college career, and my academic performance suffered. It did not stop me however. I was totally broken when I was denied entry to UCF’s MA program initially. After 3 years of just waiting I decided to reapply and was admitted. Now, I am in my final semesters in the program, and without any form of financial aid let me tell you it has been the most difficult journey. My family lives just near the poverty line…they can barely afford to help; themselves at best.

Trump’s government is “reassuring” ‘Dreamers’ all will be well but none of this was necessary to begin with. I’ve experienced and educated myself on racism far too long to be blind to the agendas of the current regime & its voter base.

A close friend introduced me to Hip-Hop when I was in my teenage years. Perhaps they saw my interest in poetry and music and thought to mold it into something more tangible and culturally relevant. I was learning to speak the Hip-Hop language.

It wasn’t until my dreams of educating myself and being a political leader were dashed that I retreated to Hip-Hop.

It was my outlet of expression. My solidarity. My refuge.

Just recently I released a song that captures much of what I am trying to say here. But I still felt the need to write this.

I am an Armenian-Syrian and I am a descendant of genocides, exiles & exoduses. I have seen my people subject to occupation and indignation, and I have experienced alienation literally in a country that denied my humanity for so long. Even after alleviating our pain and suffering and granting us some sense of normalcy, Obama’s legacy is being insulted and reversed by this white nationalist megalomania. Furthermore, American and global indifference towards the plight of those around the world engaged in similar struggles for liberation has delegitimized the image of this nation and & the value of liberty itself.

We must look in the mirror and ask ourselves about our own complicity in manufacturing these global crises which have devastated lives.

There is no time.

Please support me by listening & sharing my new song which reflects on the plight of all DREAMers seeking to protect DACA. The link is below. A special thanks to all community leaders, members of faith, friends, family, legislators & business executives for expressing solidarity, compassion & resistance in the face of this human atrocity. I pray for our deliverance and trust in the Almighty that it will be achieved. And for those who utter the Lord’s name hypocritically, for their own narrow agenda, are among the gravest of sinners. Amen.

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The Fate of the Middle East


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The fate of Middle Eastern conflicts is that they are long and bloody.

More recently, they have been immortal.

The Palestine issue has almost turned into a hopeless cause in which activists are smeared as promoters of violence. The losses suffered by Arabs, while Israelis and Americans gain footing, is tough to look beyond. How does one have hope beyond all these drawbacks?

In 2003, Iraq was invaded. Ever since, terrorism has risen sharply becoming a norm.

Then the Arab uprisings occurred, and no real progress came about. In fact, the Middle East is arguably in worse condition than it was before 2003, whether it is temporary or transitional.

None of the world’s major powers have done anything to reduce the suffering and destruction – but they certainly have invested resources into protecting their interests and initiatives. As I watch videos upon videos of suffering Syrians, both inside and outside of their country, I become more disenchanted with the Syrian government’s lack of accountability, morality and disregard. Where is the empathy? The obedience of many Arabs to the tyrannical cults of personality which rule their societies isn’t that mind-boggling to me, only because here in America, we study things like the Holocaust and Nazi Germany. I see too much suffering happening to my people.

But if Palestinians are suffering the same fate, and have been, for the last 50 years, at the hands of a so-called democratic Jewish state, who am I to blame? Americans and Europeans are quick to point their fingers at Arab heads of state – but in Palestine and Iraq, conditions have been worsened not by heads of state but also by foreign occupiers.

The sense of distrust among Syrians, and Arabs altogether towards any attempt to “police” the Middle East should not be so difficult to grasp – though it is for many Americans.

But why must ordinary people suffer at the hands of political officials? The levels of political, economic and social control in Arab states is beyond apprehension. If we cannot trust democracies or authoritarians, we have nobody to go, but ourselves. In doing that, menaces like ISIS and al Qaeda emerge.

The narrative in America is that the Syrian people are suffering because their government is stubborn. Like many governments outside of the Occident, authoritarianism is rampant in the Middle East. Syria is one of the examples. With a notorious secret police service, haunting tales about political prisoners and disappearances, horrifying accounts of state terror, Syria is a prime example in fact. The state’s inability to accept a free society that enables economic mobilization, has led to an economic disaster in which tribal ideologies are sought for survival. In this scenario, ISIS is the shadow of Assad. Neither can exist without the other. Would ISIS wain with Assad’s end? Would the specter and appeal of Islamic radicalism lose ground because of a lack of justification?  In this case, the Syrian government is inciting sectarianism and extremism.

But this theory rests largely on the assumption that authoritarianism is the cause of the problem in the Middle East. If that were the case, it would be authoritarianism, not Israeli apartheid and occupation, which subjugates Palestinians. But maybe an end to authoritarianism, would also imply an end to Israeli authoritarianism. In this case, the menace to the Arab and Islamic world is not colonialism, but rather, authoritarianism – a domestic sentiment of political hubris practiced by political elites, whether they are Zionist, Alawite, Saudi or Shia.

In another scenario, global powers are playing tug-o-war for control of regions like the Middle East, Latin America, Central & Southeast Asia. These powers include the US, Europe, Russia & China. Here, the cause of instability is imperial overstretch, violating state sovereignty, stirring animosity and violence. If nation-states like the US did not seek superiority but rather economic development, the world could experience a state of co-existence. Culturally, the West is more inclined to domination. As a result, the East responded with their own mechanism for resisting imperialism – communism. Here, the instigator is the Anglo-Saxon civilization, which seeks a level of exploitation of others. But if all nation-states sought containment, there would be less imbalance and instability. There is a level of insecurity among the Anglo-Saxons in which they cannot accept a level-playing field.

Both scenarios are compelling. Others would point to less human based factors, like oil abundance or environmental factors. Some analysts argue the main cause of instability in the Middle East is cultural – Islam is unique.

All of the arguments have some truth to them but which is most compelling and which has the most support?

Since the end of WWI, the Arab & Muslim world became more vulnerable than ever. That is because the Ottoman Empire officially collapsed, withering away into a fragmented and divided states, leaving them vulnerable to colonial domination, which is exactly what happening via Sykes-Picot in the Middle East. In the 20th century, the West dominated the East through covert operations. But in the 21st century, this manifested through direct invasions, such as the 2003 War in Iraq. Then came the war in Libya. Now the US is considering its options in Syria and Yemen. It seems hard to believe, that the removal of Saddam Hussein did anything better for the Iraqis than his initial takeover to begin with. It could mean that Iraqis have to wait another hundred years before their country is able to function democratically and resist destabilization – but is this possible with a constant threat of foreign intervention?

All of these factors must be considered.

Personally I feel that because destabilization in the Middle East increased sharply after 2003 indicates the influence of foreign intervention. Furthermore, covert operations by the US to overthrow even democratically elected leaders further enflamed the fire of radicalism. It would seem then that the argument which points to foreign intervention in the Middle East, or occupation, as the main driver of terrorism and instability, to be the most compelling.

America has pushed for democracy in its foreign policy while not practicing it fully domestically. Furthermore, its pressures for regime change have only revealed its ulterior motives in meddling in the affairs of usually more vulnerable states. Only through containment of the US’ imperial ambitions can the world see a reduction of Russian assertiveness, the appeal of Islamic radicalization and global instability.

 

An Interview with Adonis


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This is an excerpt of a recent interview with Syrian-exiled poet Adonis taken from the New York Review of Books.

The renaissance needs time. Our society, during the fifteen centuries since the foundation of the first Islamic state, has not been able to establish a society of citizens. With a citizen’s duties come rights. Until now, Arab societies are formed of individuals who carry out the same duties but have different rights: the Christian does not have the same rights as the Muslim, for instance. Fifteen centuries. How can we solve fifteen centuries in a week or two, a month or two? But I trust that the time will come, but outside this context.

The problems that Europe experienced were overcome by the establishment of new societies, completely separate from religion and the church. In the Middle Ages, the ecclesiastical courts were just like the jihadists today. They killed people and burned them. But the West succeeded in separating church from state, and created modern societies. We are still in this stage. And if the West was successful in this separation then there is no reason to prevent the Arabs from separating [the two] as well. We are struggling for this separation. We will do it despite everything and despite Western politicians as well, because Western politicians unfortunately despise Arabs, and despise Arab regimes. Despise. [The West] uses these regimes as tools to execute its plans.

(Interviewer) What then is the future of Arab culture in—

I told you, as long as death and love are there, art will remain. Don’t worry. The readers are fewer, but that’s okay. Nietzsche, the agitator of modern thought, was not published [in his time]. No one knew him. This is the destiny of art, always. Many get published and sell millions, but their books belong in the trash.

— Adonis [April 16, 2016, 10:00 am]

YASIIN BEY: “F*CK OFF ISIS” ON PARIS ATTACKS, IMPERIALISM AND COLONIALISM


Western countries, particularly the U.S., are directly responsible for the violence and destruction in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Yemen, from which millions of refugees are fleeing:

  • The illegal U.S.-led invasion of Iraq led to the deaths of at least one million people, destabilized the entire region, and created extreme conditions in which militant groups like al-Qaeda spread like wildfire, eventually leading to the emergence of ISIS.
  • In Afghanistan, the ongoing U.S.-led war and occupation — which the Obama administration just prolonged for a second time — has led to approximately a quarter of a million deaths and has displaced millions of Afghans.
  • The disastrous U.S.-led NATO intervention in Libya destroyed the government, turning the country into a hotbed for extremism and allowing militant groups like ISIS to spread west into North Africa. Thousands of Libyans have been killed, and hundreds of thousands made refugees.
  • In Yemen, the U.S. and other Western nations are arming and backing the Saudi-led coalition that is raining down bombs, including banned cluster munitions, on civilian areas, pulverizing the poorest country in the Middle East. And, once again — the story should now be familiar — thousands have been killed and hundreds of thousands have been displaced.

“We have reiterated that the Syrian future will be decided by Syrian people alone,” the Russian foreign minister said, including “the destination of Mr. Assad and any other politician in this country.”

References:

WSJ & Salon

Faux-News: Balancing News Coverage in the US Media-Mainstream


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The reason why most immigrants to the US are less inclined to believe lies on US media channels is because they have more experience in the outer world.

That is why when US media outlets inflame the crimes of violent groups like al Qaeda and ISIS, it almost makes us laugh because in our eyes, we know that none of these groups are Islamic and that the real perpetrators are in fact some of America’s closest allies, like Saudi Arabia & Israel. The problem is the US has much at stake, economically and in its reputation. American politicians & corporate execs are involved.

That is why when the Daily Beast posts headlines about the crucifixion of babies by ISIS, it upsets me because this in fact serves ISIS’ goal of garnering attention and slandering Islam.

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Article link here: http://thebea.st/1CZQRv8

Why don’t CNN, Fox, MSNBC, CBS, Daily Beast, or even Al Jazeera America broadcast the international crimes committed by the apartheid state of Israel on a daily basis? Where are the journalists and the news broadcasts and the full fledged reports about the causes of income-inequality inside and outside America? Instead all we hear about is the dangers of “Islamic terror”, the urgency of blind, self-righteous American patriotism and unquestionable support for indiscriminate international security measures. Instead, we get stories about Iggy Azalea and Suge Knight. Instead we get headlines titled Je Suis Charlie.

Well Je Suis Ahmed Merabet. Je Suis Mike Brown. Je Suis Shaimaa el-Sabbagh. Je Suis Eric Garner. Je Suis Rachel Corrie. Je Suis Mohammed Abu Khdeir.

The forces of imperialism currently being incited right now to destabilize universal concepts of national sovereignty, international peace and cooperation are the following: Zionism, Wahhabism, Communism, Anarcho-Capitalism, Libertarianism, Turkish Fascism & Ottoman Expansionism, White Supremacy.

We need fair coverage of world events in the US. Europe isn’t as bad as I’ve heard from peers, friends and family. But considering the US is the most influential country on the planet, for better and/or worse, it is urgent that we get a fair display of what is going on in the world here on American soil. It is hard enough for us political scientists who aren’t willing to compromise truth for the sake of riches to maintain our sanity let alone survive because the American economy isn’t very friendly to critics of its own politics. There isn’t anything un-American about it; though those in power might have you believe it does. In reality its just a group of Americans who benefit off media-bias, unfair coverage & imbalanced lobbying. It is of no coincidence that this group is likely white. Just afraid of a little competition…

The twentieth century allotted much of the global policing responsibility of the world to America. But just as England, Spain, Rome, and nearly all of history’s global empires overreached, so to has America; and the 21st century is finally time for the US to turn it down a notch. Protecting the world from extremism has turned into an impetus for exploitation.

While communism and extreme statist policies were viewed as the enemy of global stability; the 21st century has ushered in a new force of evil; anarchical capitalism. The King of Morocco once said, “capitalism and communism are two sides of the same coin.” I agree. Being a mixed economist myself, I have relinquished any desire to associate myself objectively with any particular ideology. This highlights the dynamic of the Vietnam War per se during which the US viewed Communism as a global threat therein being blinded by its own imperial ambitions. The same is true for Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion; the product of that debacle was the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, the Taliban and al Qaeda led by Osama bin Laden himself with close ties to the Saudi monarchy.

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The problem is there is large disconnect between the US government, Big Banks, and the American people, exacerbated by a culture and tradition of self-righteous Republicanism. Why Americans Hate Welfare, by Martin Gilens, shows how failure on behalf of the media to accurately and fairly portray the socio-economic realities within the US not only leaves the issue of economic inequality unaddressed but largely perpetuates the misery of the impoverished classes by distorting their image and the root causes of their suffering to begin with. This same principle ought to be applied to US coverage of foreign affairs which leaves various groups and communities like Arabs, Armenians, Africans, Palestinians and Native-Americans disenfranchised altogether; without a voice.

I believe only through democratic collective initiatives and progressive movements can we put pressure on politicians and the media to address public concerns. Let us honor the legacies of our predecessors like Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. who strove to balance the rights of all men in this world by fighting and protesting peacefully until our voices are heard.

Capitalism, Conservatism & God: Just Words!


Despite repeated attempts to portray itself as such, the conservative ideology is not representative of the opinions of people of faith. This distinction, between conservatives and believers, must be made clear, in my opinion, as its ambiguity is part of the reason why Republicans garner American votes — the misconception that being a believer in God or subscribing to a faith suggests that one’s ideology is conservative, or laissez-faire.

Having faith does not mean you are or have to be conservative, neither socially nor fiscally.

Furthermore, I believe it is important to establish the distinction between why I understand as anarcho-capitalism and free-market capitalism. The former, to my understanding, permits abuses of human rights, civil liberties and economic inequalities, whereas the latter allows for forward mobility, protection of private property, and economic development.

Contrary to what we’ve been fed by conservative politicians, lobbyists, religious groups and mere culture and history, capitalism does not have one definition. In former president George W. Bush’s days, words like capitalism, democracy, religion, God, and christianity were hurled around to appeal to the masses, with the underlying intention of seizing power from foreigners and securing economic interests.

My question to is, what does capitalism mean to you? What do all these words mean to you? Obviously, they mean something different to everybody.

Ain’t that something?