Monday, May 12, 2014

America the Savior

Growing up in war-torn Lebanon in the 1970s and 1980s, my family was on the side of Beirut that liked, or rather loved, America and Americans. (Yes, there is such a place in the Middle East, or at least there was.)

What we knew came from television and movies, but what we felt came from somewhere inexplicable. At least in my family, we always knew America, with its people, technology, culture and of course political clout, was an amazing place.

We felt there was little America and Americans couldn't do and we desperately needed them to do something to save us from our miserable, fearful existence.

In the dark, long days and nights of the Lebanese civil war, we longed for America to come to our aid. And America came twice. Once America came in the form of the US Marines. They were so welcomed, admired and truly adored (by many) until one fateful morning in 1983 when those doing the bidding of the Syrian and Iranian regimes killed 241 of them and put an end to their comforting, hope-inspiring presence.

Beirut Memorial at Camp LeJeune
Then America came again in 1984 when East Beirut was under attack. This time, the USS New Jersey came to Lebanon's coast and fired nearly 300 shells towards the hills above Beirut to stop our attackers. These were the loudest explosions of the entire war, but they gave us a perverse comfort since they were American and were directed at our enemies.

But as the war raged on, America stopped coming.

Then later in 1984, on a rare, quiet spring morning after a sleepless night of shelling, my parents woke me and my siblings to ask us one question: If we could leave for the United States, would you want to go? The answer was a quick and unanimous yes. After trips to the U.S. Embassy and the American University of Beirut Hospital, we were awarded visas and cleared for travel to the U.S. Little more than two months later, we had sold almost everything we owned, said our goodbyes and were on our way.

And so we came to America.

What we found in America was much more than what the world sees in movies and on television. We found a people with a generous spirit and unlimited kindness; we found endless potential for those who dare to dream and limitless results for those who work on their dreams. We found a place with plenty of bad and more of the good, a place always evolving to become a better version of itself, a place where the future holds enormous promise. Simply put, we fell in love with this amazing country.

I am so grateful for all that I found and I'm even more grateful for the freedom from the fear that dominated my childhood. Almost 30 years later, I believe now more than ever that there's little America and Americans can't do.

But as much as I love this country, I'm filled with sadness as I look at the devastation in Syria. I'm sad and appalled that America hasn't come for the Syrians as it came for us. I worry that Syrians who survive this insane war may never know the America I found. I worry that by walking away from the people of Syria and allowing hundreds of thousands to be killed and millions to be displaced, America itself is diminished. My America is better than that. I still have hope that she will live up to her own standard of greatness, and I pray the Syrian people will see and feel this greatness first hand.


  1. Great post,
    brings tears.

    1. Thank you for reading. Please share this post with others if you find value in it.

  2. When America assumes a moral role on the global state, political failures while contentious ,can and will be forgiven.

    When politics is allowed to dictate policy morality- as it is in the case of Syria- both American political policy and morality fail

    Early on the case for Syria was clear, unequivocal and profoundly moral. That is is now more complicated is not the fault of the victims of Syrian regime brutality and immorality.

    The fault lies with western world inertia, to this day..

    1. Wandering Mind -
      I agree. I wish the U.S. took action in the very early days of the Syrian revolution. I think US action is imperative if we consider our country a moral one. As to the complicated nature of the current situation, I don't disagree; however I don't believe it's ever too late to do the right thing. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

  3. Before my question, I must tell you about me.

    I am 2nd generation from Lebanon. Grandparents were born there. Sadly I have never been, but I love it like home from afar. I am glad you are here and I feel a "cousin" connection, as it were. But as someone born and lived only here, I have a question...

    Why do people feel that Americans must fight for them? Why must our young men go to war? Why must our boys come to everyone's aid?

    I HONESTLY am not trying to be argumentative; it's an honest question looking for a foreigner viewpoint! Why can Syrians and Lebanese not fight for freedom themselves? Why can Iraqis not fight their own war? Why is it our responsibility?

    Thanks and I pray for the safety of my "cousins" over there!

  4. You are asking US to declare war on Syria. If you care so much why don't you go to Syria yourself and join the FSA? Why should US sacrifice more American blood and money to "liberate" Syria, especially after the disastrous Iraq/Afghan wars where the locals did not greet Americans with love but with bullets and IEDs?

    Assad is entirely propped up by Iranian funds, including his Russian arms purchases, Iranian-funded Hezbollah, etc.

    If Iran were to undergo a regime change, you migh also get regime change in Syria and possibly Lebanon and Palestine as well, considering how much Iran gives to Hezbollah and Hamas. FOUR regime changes for the price of one! Five if you count Iraq which is under extremely heavy Iranian influence. It's up to Iranians to overthrow their dictator Khamenei.