The Lands That Carry Us

Day 0.

You’ve truly left me ambivalent.

In awe.

You’ve had me questioning my identity long before you were elected, and yet the second your lips ever touched a microphone. You’ve had me question my family, my people, the religion I was raised to follow, the land I grew up so close to.

You’ve left a raw taste in my mouth.

For a moment, I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be scared or embarrassed of myself.

Ashamed.

I thought I should be afraid to live as who I grew up to be.

But I realized you were vacuous all along.

Day 1.

Today, something peppered my nose. I sneezed hours before I was meant to wake, the sun still creeping behind erect buildings.

In this country, they stand so tall.

But in my countries, they are built on more furious foundations. Bases that endured both ethereal beauty and bloodshed that you’ll never experience.

Did you know that Damascus is the oldest inhabited city in the world?

Is your ignorance able to fathom that not all Syrians all Muslims?

Lebanon’s population is over 40 percent Christian. Mosques and churches proudly prop up next to each other. They do not discriminate.

I don’t know why I reiterate these things to myself. Maybe it’s because I’m trying to escape the fact that my soil is only experienced as dirt and rubble nowadays. It’s spat at and feared, labeled as terrorism, tagged and ticketed as a dangerous no fly zone.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll be able to speak.

Day 2.

I was fanning myself at our home in Tripoli, Lebanon. I kept shuffling through shoe boxes of photographs, sitting on a wooden rocking chair facing the window. The electricity was out and I was waiting for the water to heat up so I could finally shower.

Most of the faces were nameless to me. But in the polaroids I found of my father, I knew him instantly. He didn’t seem so sad. I knew he came from little to nothing, and yet, he was always so alive on paper. His hair always took up most of a photograph, and his teeth were always whitest when he was with my grandmother.

When the shooting and fires would begin, I would just duck. I was no longer afraid: I just took refuge in the routine that became so ingrained in my memory.

I woke up this morning disappointed.

I wake up disappointed that I’m no longer there.

Well. How fucked up is that?

Day 3.

You’ve become an antagonist in my life. You’ve coated where I’m from in your spite and malice and it’s begun to infuriate my nerves. Your words are lead, sinking into the back of what’s left of my skull.

But in the same way, your animosity has made me indestructible.

My grandmothers built me from nothing, making me the powerhouse I’ve grown to become.

My mother has made me the fortress all bigotry succumbs to.

For my friends, I’m a triple threat. And in a way, I am his worst nightmare.

Arab. Muslim. Woman. And I am living here. On American soil.

And sometimes, I admit: I wish I looked more Arab.

I wish I had darker features, I wish my hair wasn’t light and my eyes weren’t green. I wish I looked more like what terrorism looks to him and so many others so I could better stand in solidarity with my brothers and sisters who better “fit” the stereotype.

My family is who he doesn’t want to enter this country, because we are “ISIS,” a “threat,” “terrorists,” “oppressed.”

But surely, I’m not oppressed.

For I come from immigrant tongues and traveling legs, and you will never catch me.

Day 4.

I’m glad I’ve left a dry taste in your mouth. I hope you find me in the back of your teeth and that you remember me.

I am not moving. I’m not going anywhere. I may sometimes keep quiet, but my voice is greater than mountains.

And truthfully, maybe this wasn’t for you. Maybe I just had to write it to you for us both to grasp the reality.

Either way, I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for instilling pride in me I never thought I had. For you are not formidable, and I will continue to stand tall.

My family works hard and continues to live here, despite your bigotry and your abonoimble combover. But it’s because it’s not about you: it’s about everyone else. It’s about us.

The Mediterranean sea will live on, and we will swallow you whole.

Dahlia Dandashi


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