(with, of course, all due respect to mr. e e cummings)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

We are not super

  I just got done "talking" on Facebook with a friend in Syria who I haven't talked to in ages, even in the online sense.  He recently had a brush with death thanks to a bomb that fell on his family's house, and he told me how glad he was to have had my prayers and to hear from me.  And finally, finally, it was enough to knock my at least a little ways out of my protective crouch where Syria is concerned.  I told him what I've been figuring out over the past months: that I haven't been talking to the people I care about in Syria for rather selfish reasons.

   First off, my Arabic is still not so good.  I still sound like an overly formal four-year-old.  My ego doesn't like this, especially when I can so easily compare my own language use with those of my peers on Facebook and in the classroom.  Why can't I finally just sound like a human, especially when my typed words are all I have to communicate with?

   Secondly, I keep feeling like my own life is silly and small next to the lives my friends are leading in Syria.  What can you say to someone who was wounded in a bombing on his rural village?  Surely I can't tell him how happy I am to be engaged, surely I can't complain about classes, surely I can't tell him about the three layers I need in order to venture outside of my apartment in this weather.  Because neither my joys nor my trials are as important as his, so how could I bring any of my life up in conversation without seeming petty?

   And that's where my friend's response caught me up short in the middle of this pity party.  I told him these reasons, and then some of these petty-seeming milestones...and he was-- and I quote/translate-- so so so so happy to hear my news.

   To hear my news?

   Because what I'd been forgetting in my ardent self-effacement was that it wasn't the grand politics of Syria that I fell in love with.  It was neither politicians not armies for whom I marched or prayed or wrote, it was specific people in all the everyday details of their lives and the silly little things that we had shared-- hugs or trips to the dentist or keyrings or music videos or green onions or whatever.  These were what made Syria worth all the hours I spent thinking about it, brooding over it, crying about it, singing about it.  They are what makes any place, any person, special and important.

   And if I am honest with myself in saying that these tiny details are what make life what it is, and carry all of its value, then I'm not being honest when I assume that people in Syria only care about bombs now.  I'm the one who was slipping into that, not them.

   I read an article recently about the bombings in Gaza which argued that the really truly important thing there was not geopolitical superpowers or tactical advances and retreats, but a little girl doing her homework by the single light of a neon lamp and wanting to go outside and play.  I think the author's onto something there.  Because if you cut out the tiny things that really matter to people, then you leave them not human anymore: either you craft them in your mind into an infallible superhero or a godforsaken super-villain, but either way, not a human being like whoever you are.  Which is really a bad choice, because I think eventually that humanity is all we have left to hold us one to another, and sometimes we forget what it looks like.

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