Lebanese-American Alex Azar Nominated By Donald Trump To Become Next U.S. Secretary of Healthy and Human Services

The Lebanese diaspora’s affinity to the Trump regime strikes again with Alex Azar, of Lebanese origins, being nominated by American president Donald Trump to head the U.S. Health and Human Services department, which is essentially the equivalent of health ministries elsewhere around the world.

The healthcare sector in the United States corresponds to one of the top expenditures of the American economy, and of citizens. When I first came here, having the way insurance works here be explained to me was more complicated than some of the things I studied during medical school. And, after practicing medicine here for the last several months, I’ve come to realize how much their healthcare system, Obamacare or not, needs fixing in order to further better the health of their people. For being the world’s top superpower, their indices as well as the overall health of their people is nowhere near where it could be because of how the system has been built for years, to put Americans at a disadvantage when it comes to access and affordability.

Up until recently, the U.S. HHS secretary was Tom Price. He resigned after a scandal of him using taxpayer money to fund private travels. At more than $1 million, and multiple Politico articles exposing him, Price had the shortest tenure as HHS secretary. The department, with everything that the Republicans are doing to change healthcare to what suits them, is still dealing with his resignation.

Enter Alex Azar.

A descendant of Lebanese immigrants, Alex Azar was born in 1967 in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. His father, also named Alex Azar, was an ophthalmologist and teacher at John Hopkins. He holds a law degree from  Yale Law School, and was a clerk for  Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court in the early 1990s. He also worked for Kenneth W. Starr, the counsel who investigated Bill Clinton leading up to his impeachment in the 1990s as well.

Apart from his law background, Azar is also a health care expert being a former president of the American division of Eli Lilly and a health official in the George W. Bush administration, as per the New York Times. His allies, as does Trump, believe that Azar will be using his legal and health expertise to advance the Republican agenda of reforming Obamacare, which Azar believes to be a broken system, as well as to lead to lower price of drugs.

As a comparison to Lebanese readers, medications in the U.S. – even though they are mostly created and often produced here – are exorbitantly expensive. An antibiotic that you can get for $7 at a pharmacy in Lebanon would cost you north of $200 here, unless you have a good insurance plan. I’ve had patients come to the hospital nearing death because they can’t afford the medications they were prescribed.

The irony of asking someone who was the head of a pharmaceutical company to contribute to cheaper prices of drugs should not escape you. Democrats will probably grill Azar about his background in the pharmaceutical business, as well as his record in his role at the HHS previously, as they should. For a president, like Donald Trump, who wants to “drain the swamp,” he sure keeps finding a way to bring lobbyists and people of that swamp right into the heart of power. He’s also extremely conservative – as are the majority of Lebanese Americans by the looks of it.

Nonetheless, Azar’s expertise should come in handy for a Trump administration scrambling for legislative victories in the American political scene. What those victories mean to Americans and those living here (raises hand) remain to be seen.

On the Lebanese side of things, I hope that this appointment adds to Lebanon’s lobbying powers with the Americans, further tilting the Trump administration from negative actions towards my home country, and – maybe – guiding the quagmire of the Middle East, and the Saudi Arabian debacle – to a healthy conclusion.

Good luck to Mr. Azar in his confirmation hearing. He will need it. I just hope he’s more reasonable than Waleed Phares (I still don’t know why he spells his last name that way).

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Looking For The Lebanons In USA, And The Stories They Hold: Fadi BouKaram’s Homesick Journey Across America

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Less than 7 months ago, Lebanese photographer Fadi BouKaram decided to embark on the journey of visiting the cities and towns across the United States of America whose name was that of his home country, Lebanon.

The origin of those town’s name is the fact that Lebanon was mentioned in the bible over 70 times. He announced his journey in his blogpost: Welcome to Lebanon, USA. That post was published a few days after Fadi had visited his first Lebanon, in the Northwestern state Oregon. He has since finished his journey, which led to a beautiful Foreign Policy feature that you can read here.

In total, the United States has over 50 Lebanons, many of which are no longer active towns or communities. Of those 50, 28 are still active locations today where many Americans from all sides of the spectrum call home. Fadi visited them all, and photographed 24, in this order:

1. Lebanon, Oregon; Oct. 19, 2016

2. Lebanon Township, North Dakota; Oct. 30, 2016.

3. Lebanon, South Dakota; Nov. 1, 2016

4. Lebanon, Nebraska; Nov. 6, 2016

5. Lebanon, Kansas; Nov. 9, 2016

6. Lebanon, Wisconsin (Dodge County); Nov. 14, 2016

7. Lebanon, Wisconsin (Waupaca County); Nov. 17, 2016

8. Lebanon Township, Michigan; Nov. 20, 2016

9. Lebanon, Maine; Nov. 26, 2016

10. Lebanon, New Hampshire; Nov. 29, 2016

11. New Lebanon, New York; Dec. 6, 2016

12. Mount Lebanon, New York; Dec. 8, 2016

13. Lebanon, Connecticut; Dec. 12, 2016

14. Lebanon, New Jersey; Dec. 21, 2016

15. Lebanon, Pennsylvania; Dec. 24, 2016 

16. Lebanon, Kentucky; Jan. 1, 2017

17. Lebanon Junction, Kentucky; Jan. 4, 2017

18. Lebanon, Tennessee; Jan. 6, 2017

19. Lebanon, Virginia Jan. 14, 2017; 

20. Lebanon, Ohio; Jan. 25, 2017

21. Lebanon, Indiana; Jan. 30, 2017

22. Lebanon, Illinois; Feb. 3, 2017

23. Lebanon, Missouri; Feb. 6, 2017

24. Lebanon, Oklahoma; Feb. 8, 2017

His quest, as per his blog and the Foreign Policy feature, was to find a taste of home in the country where he was setting roots, especially that it was prompted by a Google Maps search for Lebanon in one of his homesick moments, which led him to discover the existence of those Lebanons when the search results pointed to them, instead of his home country.

So for months, Fadi Boukaram drove across the U.S. He had his rental RV stolen in Albuquerque, New Mexico but was lucky enough that the police was able to recover it without causing hiccups on his journey. As someone who’s considered from the “coastal elite,” or typical democrat demographics, he surprised many of his friends by undertaking this journey. Many of his fellow Americans had never been to the States he was visiting, and many were afraid that his ethnicity would cause him trouble.

The only time he got into trouble for being from Lebanon was at a bar in Nebraska where a man approached him, asked him where he’s from, then interrogated him about he’d feel if he came to his town like that. That man was promptly kicked out of the bar, with every single person there apologizing to BouKaram for what he just went through.

The bartender also paid for Boukaram’s drink. I’ve always spoken fondly of American hospitality and kindness, especially once you penetrate political barriers, and this is the biggest testament of that. She also left him a post-it note on his car: “There’s a lot of hatred in this world, and I’m sorry for that.… I hope you meet more good souls than bad on your journey. Safe travels, Alissa.”

Part of his Lebanon, USA journey was also to find 7 Cedar Trees that former president Camille Chamoun had given mayors of 7 Lebanons in the USA who were invited to visit Lebanon a long time ago. Only one of those trees survived, and it’s currently growing in Lebanon, Ohio.

The America that is present in a lot of those Lebanons, according to Karam, is an America that is forgotten often and is skipped over in a lot of what gets discussed. The term is flyover nation. Coming from a bustling San Francisco, he found a land that was a long way removed from the way of life or economical advances that he was used to.

Instead, he was faced with foreclosure signs, for sale signs, and signs of economic despair. This changed his perspective to these towns and their people. Politics in the context of where they come from and what they know becomes entirely different when you’re exposed to their conditions.

I would love to do the trip that Fadi Boukaram did one day. I’ve had the chance to pass through Lebanon, NJ and Lebanon, PA on a couple of drives I had in the Northeast during my two latest visits in the U.S. and there’s always a sense of pride, mixed with joy once you see those signs announcing those towns coming up in a few miles. More importantly, I hope to one day get the chance to have such a life-altering experience that exposes me to so many different people, and helps me change my perspective, just like Fadi.

Welcome to Lebanon, USA.

Here are some pictures taken by Fadi. You can check out more on his Instagram page and Blog, as well as in the previously linked Foreign Policy Feature.

The Humiliation of Entering The United States As Arab

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to supporters as he takes the stage for a campaign event in Dallas, Monday, Sept. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to supporters as he takes the stage for a campaign event in Dallas, Monday, Sept. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

I was rejected the US visa for the first time when I was fifteen. I remember standing there, in front of the Embassy Consulate, unsure as to why I was being shut away, as just a young boy, from spending a summer abroad with his family. I was told I didn’t have an “extended enough travel history,” because as you know most 15 year olds have probably been around the world.

Ten years later, after months of back and forth with the Embassy and papers flowing in and out, I was finally given a visitor’s visa for 5 years on my third try, routine for Lebanese citizens who were granted the document as far as I know. A few months later, I visited the United States of America for the first time ever.

On my second visit, the border control officer said his system “couldn’t process” me, so I was taken into another room where, an hour and another interrogation later, I was permitted entry to come into the US to do my medical residency interviews. This happened again on my third entry, with longer waiting times. Entering the US has been the most invasive thing to my being, and I’ve survived medical school.

It’s also what has been happening to many of my colleagues and friends: doctors, scientists, researchers, humans. Just because they were unfortunate enough to be born in countries that are not worthy of enough of having their citizens treated with the minimum of human decency. I can tell you stories about physicians who were kept in those rooms for four hours, waiting for who knows what. It’s never easy to sit there and not know what’s going to happen to you, just because you dared seek entry of a foreign country that you’ve already been thoroughly vetted to be given a visa to.

This process that we go through every time we want to come here, that we know we have to willingly subject ourselves to in order for us to visit New York or some monument or even see some extended family is, apparently, not “rigorous” enough.

Today, on my third visit, with the news of president Donald Trump stopping visas and entries from countries he doesn’t like and even though my country isn’t on the list, I’m the most scared and the most unwelcome I’ve felt in a country whose history celebrates its diversity and its enabling of people from all kinds by giving them a chance at making it.

Not if your kind is Arab.

You’ll read plenty about illegal immigrants, but the fact of the matter is the United States scares me too much for me not to abide by its laws. It’s not about how it cracks down on illegals or how it’s managed to change the course of my region for centuries to come. It’s about how humiliated I’ve felt every single time I’ve applied for that visa.

Many of you wouldn’t think twice about the notion of a “tourist visa.” To most of you, the term is as foreign as that of the person demanding it, but every single time we apply for one – be it for the United States or any other country – we have to subject ourselves to the most rigorous of checks, be ready to provide every form of documentation imaginable. Just for a visit.

And this isn’t rigorous enough.

For a refugee to be granted entry to the United States, they must first apply through the UNHCR, which conducts its own interviews and documentation collection process. Those selected for re-settlement in the United States have their files referred to the State Department which puts the refugee through screening by the National Counterterrorism Center, the FBI and DHS. More anti-fraud agencies come into play later as well as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration services (USCIS), which interviews the refugees, fingerprints them, and runs those fingerprints through the FBI, DHS and Department of Defense.

If a refugee passes through all of that, they are given health screenings to make sure they’re not bringing in any diseases to the US, while being enrolled in cultural orientation classes as they wait, while their information is checked constantly against terrorist databases. On September 15th, 2016, the US House of Representatives also voted to add further screening steps that require the FBI director to sign off on every single refugee.

Over the past 15 years, the United States, also the world’s third largest country in size and population, has re-settled only around 780,000 refugees.

And this isn’t rigorous enough either.

The fact that my friends have to be told by their employers not to go home for fear of their visas not getting renewed, and have their families not be able to visit them because someone out there is so afraid of them existing is 2017’s reality for many. But we can’t say anything about it, because it’s their country and we’re just parasites in it.

Growing up, America was always a place of hope for me. It was from where, as a kid, my relatives visited with gifts. It was the place from which, growing up, my favorite musicians, series and movies emanated. It is the place, today, that I’m working diligently as a graduated physician to come train in. Today, that place gives me anxiety, just for coming from a certain country in a region whose entirety is on a blacklist, knowing that the most illegal thing I’ve done in my life was break speeding limits.

If history has taught us anything, it’s that selective targeting is never a good thing nor does it build better societies nor does it contribute to the betterment of countries. After all, isn’t one of the most shameful events in American history were the Japanese internment camps around World War II?

With every passing day of Trump’s presidency, and at this rate it is daily, America’s image is getting distorted. Perhaps that is what those who voted for him want: for it not to remain a country of inclusiveness, and become a walled – literally? – state. But it’s also my belief that no country can ever truly be great through hate, fear, the refusal of anything that is different and the denigration of a people. A few decades ago, Anne Frank and her family were denied American visas. How many Anne Franks will be refused away because of fear today?

Why Donald Trump Is Probably Part-Lebanese

donald-trump

With each passing day leading up to America voting on November 8th, there’s a growing conviction that gets reinforced in my head, and that is that the Republican bigot and racist nominee cannot but have some part of him be Lebanese. It’s just the way it is, no genetic testing needed. And this is why.

He’s a politician who hates women:

From statements about him just grabbing women “in the pussy,” to making women feel inadequate about the fact they get their period, to calling a former Miss Universe “Miss Piggy” for gaining weight, to believing that pregnancy is a nuisance for his business, to him believing that sexual assault in the military is obviously logical because the two genders are mixed.

The examples are endless. This link (here) is just a brief summary of some of them.

Of course, while such statements are absolutely horrifying for Americans (even though around 43% of them still want to vote for him), they are only second nature to us as Lebanese. How could they not when we’ve got full blown MPs who think women should be blamed for being raped?

He’s racist:

He’s gonna build a wall, a wall that will be so YUGE!, and who’s gonna pay for that wall? SYRIA! Oh wait. Never mind. Had a little mix up there.

From his anti-Mexican statements, to his overall anti-anything-not-American-Blonde-and-White rhetoric, to turning a blind eye to KKK members campaigning for him, to questioning if Barack Obama was born in the United States, the examples are also – once again – endless.

Not to say that *all* Lebanese are racists, but man, those refugees are just ugh! And can you imagine sharing a pool with a maid? What is this, Colonial Africa? And what’s to say about our minister of foreign affairs? Of course he’s right about not wanting to give Syrians or Palestinians who marry Lebanese women the precious Lebanese nationality. America has KKK, we have 961.

He doesn’t pay taxes and is proud of it:

When interrogated by Hillary Clinton at the first presidential debate about his taxes, alluding to him not paying them, Trump replied: “that makes me smart.” A few days later, the New York Times risked legal action to leak part of his tax returns showing he didn’t pay anything for over 18 years because of being able to manipulate the American tax code like a pro.

His Republican aids came to his rescue. Rudy Guliani turned him into a “genius” for doing what he did, saying that that alone made him more capable to lead the country than “a woman” (refer to point #1).

Americans (not the 42% still voting for him at least) were outraged. Gasps were reportedly heard among undecided voters being used as focus groups during the debate at his tax statements. How could he get Americans (again, not those 42%) to feel like they are “less smart” for actually contributing to their country?

In this side of the world, however, Donald Trump not paying his taxes doesn’t make him smart at all. It makes him just another regular Lebanese. Income tax? What is that again? Electricity Bill? They don’t even dare enter my neighborhood to collect man. Water? Meh, it’s not like they’re gonna cut me off anyway. VAT? Haha, I’ll buy using my foreign passport. 😉

He hates Muslims:

He wants to ban Muslims – all 1.6 billion of them – from entering the United States because a small faction of them, numbered at less than 10,000 individuals worldwide, are terrorizing people.

When his statements were demolished by Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of United States Army Captain Humayun Khan who gave up his life saving his fellow soldiers, Trump’s response was not to apologize, but to allude to Ghazala not speaking to her being an oppressed Muslim woman.

The memory of her son was still, years later, too much for her to bear to address the entirety of the United States.

In these parts of the world, the hate of others for being of a different religion on both sides is existent, albeit not applicable to everyone thankfully. The deeper you go in the Lebanese Bible or Quran belts, the more engrained is the mentality that those who pray differently are to be feared. It takes a lot to break out of that.

He lies about everything all the time:

Global warming is a Chinese hoax, he tweeted a few years ago. Flash forward to September 2016 and he denied he ever said it. He supported the War on Iraq. Flash forward a few years later and he denies he ever did.

He comes up with one lie after the other, believes them, and refuses to be fact-checked. Wasn’t it about 90 seconds before he dropped his first lie at the first Presidential Debate?

His Lebanese brethren practice this dogma to the letter. Fact checking is irrelevant here. If it’s my opinion, then it’s a fact and you better deal with it, Lebanon-style.

His top advisor is Lebanese:

Walid Phares – no relation, thank God – is one of Donald Trump’s top advisors and councils him on a lot of issues, notably foreign affairs. Phares’ personal history is relevant for being a Lebanese Forces officer during the Civil War, and leaving to the United States while still retaining his “Christians are better than everyone else because they are Christians” mantra (read point #4).

During the 1980s, Phares, a Maronite Christian, trained Lebanese militants in ideological beliefs justifying the war against Lebanon’s Muslims. Justified back then, perhaps and debatable, but he hasn’t left that mentality behind. He was also a main contributor to the planning behind the Sabra and Chatila massacres.

Birds of a feather flock together, Lebanon style?

Fails at so many things, brags anyway:

From failed universities, to failed steak ventures, to hotels driven to the ground, his career hasn’t exactly been the beacon of bright light that his father’s “small loan” of $14 million kickstarted.

That hasn’t stopped Donald Trump from making sure that everyone and their mother knew that:

  1. He had money,
  2. He has made money,
  3. He has bought stuff with his money,
  4. He can buy more stuff with that money,
  5. He has money,
  6. He will have more money,
  7. The time it took you to read this list has seen him make even more money,
  8. This is a random number on the list because money.

In Lebanon, one may be starving but one would never ever dare show it. One must always buy the fanciest of clothes, go to the most expensive clubs and pretend that life is nothing but instagram-rich-perfect 24/7. Then you go home and decide water is enough for dinner (Evian if with friends, tap if at home alone). Or when you’ve barely made it through your bachelor degree but call yourself a doctor anyway.

A Final Word:

America, 42% is a lot. Wake up.

Lebanon, this doesn’t apply to every one of us, but many have such traits let’s not beat around the bush, as do most of our politicians. Let’s get rid of them like America will (hopefully) get rid of our export to them?

Meet Jess Rizkallah: The Lebanese-American Whose Poem On Being Torn Between Being Arab & American Will Blow You Away

I’ve been into slam poetry for more than two years now and Button Poetry is one of my favorite YouTube channels. I love it so much that it’s the only YouTube channel for which I’ve enabled notifications.

Late last night, Lebanon-time, I get a notification that a new poem by Jess Rizkallah has been uploaded. Intrigued by the name, I open the YouTube video to find one of the most enriching, gut-wrenching poems I’ve listened to on that website in months.

In three short minutes, Jess Rizkallah was able to convey the struggles that she, a Lebanese-Arab-American woman in the United States goes through trying to juggle her Arab side with her American side, in a culture that is increasingly putting both of her components at odds. I mean just look at a creature like Donald Trump existing and at people, many of whom are Lebanese unfortunately, applauding him.

Jess Rizkallah is a Lebanese-American woman who’s trying to find herself in the dichotomy of cultures in which she is stuck. She is light-skinned enough to pass as white, but brown-souled enough for white people to call her on it and make her question who/what she is, and question she does: From the injustice her family went through, to the change of beauty paradigms in the United States that now include her and her sister (thanks Kim Kardashian?), to the politics in general that make her people feel like lessers.

The poem may be Jess Rizkallah’s personal experience, but I find it’s something most of us as Lebanese, who have been outside the country at certain points, who are immigrants, who might immigrate soon, have to deal with or have dealt with at a certain point: this need to assimilate while also wanting to maintain the semblance of who you are.

Find the transcript below:

i am but i’m not

white man says to my brown father

go blow up your own country i’m not buying a car from you

fires my father replaces him
with another white man.
the first time i hear my father cry,
my grandmother says a hail mary.
& he smashes the statuette of white jesus

we still brought it with us when we moved
to the white neighborhood where the children
broke eggs into our living room named us loud & dirty and the white father smiled at us
the next morning
as he mowed
his lawn.

& now white man leers at my brown sister
who no one believes is my sister he likes how exotic & kardashian she is all bellydancer hatching
from double apple smoke something entrancing
in the way she talks / way she walks
white man better keep walking say the Lebanese men who say they will protect my sister
they say they are her Big Brothers
i say No, actually I am her big brother.
I am all of her big brothers & I am her big Sister

so they tell me my problem: i’m too White
for them too loud & dirty won’t shut up, but they like the way i wear my shorts
& my arabic is too dull of the knife
my tongue could open them with so i let them
drive me home

then white man asks to use my phone
tells me i look like a Nice White Girl
not like those Not White girls winks. do i know what he means and suddenly
i hate him it is so easy to hate them

but it’s midnight by an alley on boylston & a strange man has
my phone so I just tell him No, I don’t know what you mean and suddenly I feel very much like a white girl because I am.

But I’m also not but when I’m scared
& I want to be, it’s not impossible it’s actually really easy.

but white girls still ask me where I’m from.

no, where are you really from? when you go back do you have to cover up?
& their boys love middle eastern girls
but oh man, all that hair would have to go

so i don’t shave anything for weeks because fuck you

then an arab man tells me he loves a woman with body hair
and i fantasize about setting fire to every individual hair on my body because fuck you

and my mother tells me i’ll never find a man if i don’t get rid of it

but she also tells me to be less american so less white? but i am white. so is she but she watched people die & still, white people called her the smelly immigrant

but white people invite me to their potlucks.
ask me to bring my mother’s food. they like me. except when i’m angry and they don’t like me. or when they don’t like my brown family.
i don’t look like most of my family.
i look like the people that hurt my family.

the census classifies middle eastern people as white but if we can be called terrorists and white people can’t then are we really the same?
is the distance between guantanomo and an acquittal just a pair of parentheses?
i’m safe in spaces others are not but invisible when my white friends make bomb jokes
when they say we deserve it
maybe i am the insurgent that hollywood says i am maybe they’re not safe from me from my tongue from its rage living in the space between
all my loud & my too much

& it’s funny
that’s the only thing white people and my people agree on
when they look at me

Dear Donald Trump, Meet My Very Scary Muslim Friends

Donald Trump does not want Muslims to enter America, at least until he can be sure what those Muslims are planning. You know, all 1.5 billion plus of those Muslims. Yes, all of them must be in on that very scary Muslim plan that they conceived one scary afternoon when no one was looking, as they all huddled together and decided that the only thing they’d want to do in their lifetime is not survive because most Muslims are not really living, not make ends meet, not finish school and find a job and try to better themselves, not to build families and communities, not to just pray 5 times a day to Allah and fast Ramadan and be good people just because they should be.

Nope.

What those Muslims have planned is something much scarier. If only anyone knew what that plan is. So Donald Trump, let us meet my very scary Muslim friends together.

This is Oula, on the far left, with her beautiful family.

Oula

Oula is a 24 year old newly graduated doctor, and a hell of a good one at that. She can handle the best of emergencies efficiently. She can save lives effortlessly, and if it comes down to it, she would also save yours in a heartbeat because that’s the kind of people she is. And look at her celebrating Christmas with her family. Do you think that’s part of the plan, too?

This is Mostapha, with his wife Dima.

Mostapha

Mostapha is also a doctor. He carries the weight of the world on his shoulders every single day. He worries  about his friends more than they worry about themselves. Mostapha is not only the most selfless person I know, he would probably define the word selfless in a dictionary. He just returned from giving blood to my grandfather, who happens to be Christian. Do you think that’s part of the plan? Infusing their blood into the unknowing masses?

This is Zaher.

Zaher

Zaher helps run one of my country’s most established and known sweets-factories. He’ll send a few kilos of those absolutely delicious Arabian sweets, poison free I promise. Zaher is a father of two adorable little girls, but his main concern nowadays is that the new Star Wars movie be up to scratch.

This is Hiba.

Hiba

Hiba is a dentist, and also the mother of the most adorable two year old you will meet whose name is Sacha. It’s pronounced Sasha, but written with a C. Don’t ask. Hiba’s friends are from all kinds of kinds. She was raised on tolerance, and like her sister Hala, who is also a doctor, practice tolerance in all that they do. I can’t say the same about you.

This is Ahmad with his wife Anya.

Ahmad

Ahmad is a physiotherapist. And he’d probably done one hell of a good work on his back if you asked him to, or probably not. She’s Romanian, so you probably wouldn’t have a problem with her. His main care in the world is providing for his family, in a country where his profession is a cut-throat competition. But you know nothing about living a tough life now, do you?

These are the Syrian refugees your country is receiving in spite of what you want, and they are all my friends too.

They’ve been to hell and back, not only at the hands of the hellish regime in their country and the terrorist forces pillaging their homes and their lives, but also in the bureaucratic process required for them to be granted entry into your borders. You’d do well read their stories on “Humans of New York” except you’re not human, so you wouldn’t understand.

This is Aylan Kurdi. And he too was my friend.

Aylan Kurdi f

As his body adorned the ruthless shores of Turkey, did your conscience budge in the tiniest bit Mr. Trump? Did you think, just for a second, that this was a human being worth of your sentiment and not of your judgment? Or was he just another Muslim, who was in on that big hellish Muslim plan?

I honestly and from the deepest parts of my heart wish on you, Mr. Trump, never to be subjected to what these people had to go through: I hope you never know what it is to see your loved ones die in front of you. I hope you never know what it is to see your home destroyed as you drive away from it. I hope you never know what it is to be stuck in limbo, not knowing how to move on with your life or what to do. I hope you never have your worth as a human be valued by how much you can contribute to a society. I hope you never have to be labeled as a terrorist until proven otherwise when you are ALWAYS a perpetual victim. I hope you never have to deal with the likes of you.

These are the more than a billion Muslim in the world, Mr. Trump, who live in hellish conditions, whose lives are always contingent upon powers higher up doing whatever they please with their homes simply because they exist on profitable lands, and whose worth as human beings is always dependent on the net price of the oil barrel.

These are the more than a billion Muslim in the world who scare you but are incapable of doing any harm to you, while you get people to hate them, to draw weapons at them for simply existing, for believing that they are worthless.

Except you are not a hater of all Muslims, isn’t that right? Or is it that you only love those rich Muslims who build golf courses in your name and whose name you can use to say that you have “some Muslims who agree with you” akin to those people who have “gay friends” who agree with them that gay marriage is an abomination.

Isn’t that you with Hussain Sajwani, head of Dubai’s DAMAC group?

Trump Damac

Entertain me for a moment, Mr. Trump, and answer this: How is it that you will screen for Muslims entering your beloved country on its path to greatness? Is their a Muslim gene you isolated? Will you get them to recite Quran verses? Where would that place me, a non-Muslim, who knows quite a few of Quran verses? Do you need me to recite them now or would that scare you?

What you’re saying Donald Trump is not scary. Let me call it what it is, because most American journalists are somehow still shying away from using the word with you: it’s disgusting, revolting, bigoted, racist, Nazi-like and inhumane. Is your middle name Adolf? If not, I suggest you change it to that because the last time someone had such a message broadcast in such a way was post WWI in Germany and we all know how that turned out to be.

The scary part, Mr. Trump, is that there are people paying to hear you, itching to shout your name, holding it on signs to proclaim they want their country to be great again.

I doubt that those people rooting for you know what greatness means. It is not to be a racist, which you are. It is not to be a bigot, which you are. It is not to be despicable, which those people are channeling every time they answer a poll proclaiming you as their choice. It is to be wholesome, accepting, tolerant, encompassing of change and of others who are different and who can induce change. Being great is not to be so politically dim-witted as to jump on whichever messages offends people enough to grab headlines, but to know that cause and effect, in politics, do not have a causal relationship.

To the people supporting Donald Trump, I say this: may you never be in need, in full blown despair, not knowing where tomorrow would lead you or how you are going to make it through the night, and then have someone just like you stand and say: you deserve it.

America being great again is not America refusing to be what it has always been: a country of immigrants. A country that is so afraid of what it is cannot simply be, and this is coming from someone who lives in a country that has simply been, despite all odds, and will be, in spite of them.

In a world where you are lumping an entire religion into one basket, you have to be thankful no one is lumping all Americans into yours. People applauding you does not mean what you’re saying is worth anything. It means that in that circle of jokers and jesters, you are the biggest clown.

When Arabs Think The Apocalypse Is Near Because The US Legislated Same-Sex Marriage

I’m so honored and flattered to be living in the most open-minded and widely-accepting region of the world. Not only is everything peachy, wonderful and exceedingly rainbow-y around this place, but people in the region are adamant that their quality of life is obviously the way to go for everyone else, and that any deviation from it is quite clearly going to bring about the end of days, Allah-style.

It only took a couple of hours after the United States legislated same-sex marriage on Friday for Arabs across the Middle East to rise in outrage. Obviously, the outrage was restricted to Facebook and Twitter, but some of them were absolutely seething.

Here’s a sample:

How can anyone fathom living in a place where people are equal and requested?

I mean look at Iceland. They have more books published per person than any other country in the world while still being the second happiest country in the world. They legalized same-sex marriage in 2010. How dreadful.

Look at Belgium. The UNICEF called it the best place for children in the world. They legalized same-sex marriage in 2003. How atrocious.

Look at Canada. They are, according to studies, the most educated country in the world. They legalized same-sex marriage in 2005. How horrifying.

Look at New Zealand. They’re the second least corrupt and fourth safest country in the world. They legalized same-sex marriage in 2013. How abysmal.

Look at Norway. They legalized same-sex marriage in 2001, and they’re #1 on the UN’s Human Development Index. How disgusting.

Look at Ireland. In May 2015, they became the world’s first country to legislate same-sex marriage via a public referendum. They’re the #10 in the best places to grow up in. How nauseating.

Obviously, a #GAY_HOUSE is not a suitable place for humanity, because it will destroy everything that we’re about:

Arabs US - 15

 

So, because those horrible same-sex-loving countries are downright appalling at how they do things, I think that we should tell them what “natural” is, because they don’t know, and because we’re excellent at keeping things natural:

  1. It’s okay to have ISIS in your backyard. Clearly, there’s nothing wrong or unnatural about a clan of beheading-loving terrorists who are emanating from our #NATURAL_HOUSE.
  2. It’s okay if you marry an 8 year old girl. As long as the person you’re marrying has a vagina, you’re okay. Also, it’s not pedophilia in our #NATURAL_HOUSE.
  3. It’s okay if you beat your wife to death. The law allows it. No one will bat an eyelash on the news of her ending up in the hospital, brain dead. No one will also care about the bruises on her face. This is how we roll in our #NATURAL_HOUSE.
  4. It’s not okay for you to marry someone who inherited a different set of religious beliefs. Sunni and Shiite can be okay, even though you wouldn’t want that for your children nowadays also. But Muslim-Christian? This is not how things work in our #NATURAL_HOUSE.
  5. You will not be naturalized in our countries unless you’re from a certain religion. It doesn’t matter how good of a person you are, how hard-working, law-abiding and national. We don’t want any strangers in our #NATURAL_HOUSE.
  6. If you hear someone talk about the idea of civil liberties, call them a heretic and hang them at your nearest town square. Civil marriage? Equal right? Human rights? These are foreign concepts in our #NATURAL_HOUSE.
  7. If someone dares to mention Western countries, you will point your finger to his or her face and accuse them of being a follower of the Great Big Shaytan. This is not an insult to anyone’s intelligence in our #NATURAL_HOUSE.
  8. You will bring up Gaza and other violations of human rights in casual conversation about irrelevant topics, over shisha with your friends, to show you care. We are compassionate in our #NATURAL_HOUSE.

Once upon a time, I used to be a homophobe bigot. I used to think what people did in the privacy of their homes was my own business, and that I was allowed to have an opinion into how other people lived their lives, and that their lives are supposed to go on the track of values that I was exposed to all my life, never challenging, never looking at another realm of morality that existed beyond the confines of that little town, nestled on the hills of Batroun, in the heart of Christian Lebanon.

This extended to the way I dealt with things as well: when the only thing you know is that different is not okay, that “other” is frowned upon, that anything existing beyond your moral code is cringe-worthy, you slowly but surely regress into not being human.

But then I left home, and I realized that there were a lot of things I didn’t know. I realized that being challenged, morally, by things I had never been exposed to wasn’t only mind-boggling, it was also exhilarating. And slowly, over the course of many years and friendships in between, I not only do not recognize the boy that I was a few years ago, but I cower at the idea of that person still existing in some people’s memory.

I’ve seen some people say that discussing the new American legislation should not be done by people not living in the United States. I believe it’s the exact opposite. The most heart-warming story I’ve seen over the weekend is how a friend of mine, whose mother thought homosexuality was an abomination only a few years ago, is now a person who just wants people to live and let live, because what they’re doing does not affect her in any way whatsoever.

The more we discuss such topics and issues that challenge what we know, the more we inch towards truly bettering ourselves as societies, crawling slowly but surely towards a better state, one where people realize that the people who are different in all aspects are not an issue, but not accepting them is.