The following is from a series of musings on trauma, memory, community, and place. The introduction to the series and beginning essay [link] explains the purpose of this month of entries.
I remember the July War of 2006 especially now as the Mediterranean fills up with warships, including five of the American variety.
Pointing Tomahawk missiles at a distant Syria.
At the height of the tension a few weeks ago, my fear of sleeping came back.
In July 2006, they would bomb during the morning call to prayer.
Which is rather depraved if you give it any thought whatsoever.
It just became simpler to not sleep.
The bombs at daybreak were easier to withstand when you were ready for them.
As opposed to being startled awake by the noise and visceral pressure wave they created.
Perhaps you didn’t know that bombs disturbingly involve all of the senses.
Even from a rather distance.
Seeing others’ lights on during the night made me realize I wasn’t alone.
All the same, during such times, the normal day-to-day manages to carry on.
There is tension, but collectively the sharing of such burdens is a given.
So individually we can worry about other things.
Like someone’s lost pet snake that was loose in a neighbor’s building.
I mean, it was pretty comical if I really think about it.
The out-of-proportion presence of police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks provided endless conversation for the entire week.
Along with discussions of snakes, how poisonous they are, the danger they pose, etc., ad infinitum.
Oblivious to the Sword of Damocles hanging over our heads, yet again.
I notice more and more this non-focus on collective burdens.
It is something I am trying to avail myself of.
But a lifetime of a particular acculturation is difficult to overcome.
Perhaps even impossible.
Much of my adoption experience is lifted from my shoulders, locally speaking.
I mean to say outside of the class of people who share my acculturation.
On that side, I am endlessly having to argue about it, or discuss pros and cons, or defend myself for what I say.
Of late this has become despairingly burdensome due to the fatigue it brings.
On this side, it is understood on some level.
I recall when I related my story to someone in my neighborhood and they replied: “haram“.
Basically saying, “I’m sorry to hear that”.
While also implying that it was wrong to have happened.
Not just wrong, but forbidden.
My neighborhood has welcomed me; acknowledges me as belonging.
I’ll be honest and say I never believed this might be possible.
There is a word in Arabic for such an acknowledgment.
It is, ironically, translated into English as: “adopted”.
This reveals something that I’ve discussed at length before.
I notice it only sometimes when I return Stateside.
Usually in the strangest of circumstances.
It never occurs among the class of my acculturation, that’s for sure.
Such as among the American ex-pats here in Beirut.
Who, when I first met them, took to calling me “Li’l Orphan Danny”.
That’s exactly what they said.
Laughing the whole time.
Their little joke.
A reminder of an entire lifetime spent taking in such little jokes.
A death by 1,000 cuts.
An invidious banishment.
All the harder to bear when it is from a place you were brought to.
Against a will you didn’t know you were allowed to have.
Image: Empty cribs | Date: October, 2004 | Place: Crèche St. Vincent de Paul, Achrafieh, Beirut | Camera: Camera:Kodak Retina 35mm/1950s | Caption: My orphanage stands empty and mostly unused. Doctors and lawyers long ago figured out how to cut out the middleman of their illicit tradings. These cribs are still the same from when I was there, 50 years ago. In a poem I wrote about the place, I said: “No ghosts dare haunt these halls”.