November 16, 2007

"Pièce de Résistance"


I was invited for dinner. I thought to myself why not. I deserve a break after all.
It's not like am getting paid or charging anyone for sitting behind this computer . So why not indeed.

I was hoping to find that razor, knife, that would cut me away from it all- a bit like the surgeon's or midwife's knife that cuts the umbilical cord of the new born and proclaims it free and independent...

Alas, no such luck...

I might as well get used to the idea that I will never fit in. I might as well get used to the idea that I will remain a foreigner. I might as well get used to the idea that even though the "other" may temporarily accept me - he/she will make sure I will never belong.

In the West, they told me "Oh, so you're a Muslim Arab?!" And here they tell me "Oh so you're an Iraqi?!" And soon they will tell me" Oh, so you're a woman?!" and soon after I will be told "Oh so you're still alive?!" and shortly after I will be told "Oh so you're breathing our air now?!

One of them said "Why don't you return ?" I looked in his eyes for a long time and replied " Have you not heard of the Occupation?"
He replied back "Well, it has always been violent" and he continued picking on his salad leaf with great nonchalance...

He might as well have told me you don't exist, it would have amounted to the same.

Clearly, I was an excess. Clearly, I was at best tolerated and basically not wanted...

So why was I invited? Was it out of pity? Like someone took pity on me and said "Hey let's ask her over." Or was it to prove to themselves that they were above it?

Am not sure. I am a guest after all and will remain so, for as long as...

Then the topic changed- I could breathe easier... They talked of business, losing a couple of thousands, making them, the house, the christmas trip, the kids and also the anxiety about the future and its uncertainty...

I still could not get it. What were they complaining about, exactly?

Their universe had shrunk to their belly buttons, their navels. I think their universe was always limited to that. Nothing had changed - except me.

I have changed. Actually change is not the right word. I have been transformed, metamorphosed into something else... A place of great vulnerability yet one of great strength. I am not sure I understand it myself...

Maybe it's the battle for survival and beyond...Maybe it's a struggle to remain and count...I am not sure anymore what it is. All I know is that there is something going on and it's not over yet...

It may take some time for me to get used to it - this business of loss and being occupied. Every fiber in me rejects it though...

I have never accepted the "fait accompli." Specially not when it has been imposed from the outside by force...

Now it's a question of finding that place for me...that elusive place and starting all over again. I shun from the idea. I find in it, a great injustice, an impossibility, a deliberate unforgivable slight, like a slap in the face.

It curiously reminds me of when I was a little girl at school and the teacher had the habit of slapping us and say "Now do it." And I would feel her hand fly across my small face and leave its red hot marks...and every cell in my body would shout back "I will not."

I will not succumb to you, I will not bow, I will not surrender to your might and force...I will not.

It was a question of survival for me then, and it is now. Not just physical survival, but a moral and spiritual one too.

You try to forcefully shape my identity with your slaps and I will resist you - no question about it.

You will not make me into something am not supposed to be.

And despite your best efforts, I will not let you steal, rob me of who I am or who I took great pains to construct... This is my "pièce de résistance."

Whatever it takes, it does not matter... I shall not be broken.

Because this is what you want deep down - break me. Break that spirit, dampen that fire so you can finally extinguish it. And you will try several ploys.

Threats, torture, rape, money, exile, hunger, poverty, brutality, humiliation, rejection, abandonment...and death.

None will work. I stand firm. Today, more so than ever. I owe it to Her and to myself...

And so it shall be.


Painting: Iraqi artist, Ali Al-Mimar, 1990.