10:00 – 10:50
How I Became A Patriot
It’s a curse to care so much. My blood boils a little every time I come across people who don’t hold their Somalinimo (Somali Identity) to a higher standard. I die a little every time I see another Somali child caught up in the system. I shed a tear for the old and young souls set on divisive tactics like clanism. My heart aches in pain when I look at our leaders and the people they are suppose to be accountable to. To be honest, it kind of sucks wearing your Somalinimo (Somali Identity) on your sleeve. It can easily get old analyzing our community here in the diaspora and their shortcomings. You start to become negative when there is so much disparage around you. One can easily come to despise with others that aren’t as invested in the greater Somalinimo (Somali Identity). That’s something I have been dealing with, for it would be a shame for me to look down on the very people I hope to help. It has been hard to watch the mess in our community all around us. What more can one do, but express their displeasure with our situation? I care too much to sit back and watch by silently. I aspire to be the voice for the voiceless trapped in violence and oppression back home and here in the diaspora. If being opinionated is the price I must pay for this, then so be it.
But I can’t do this alone. It’s too exhausting and important for small minorities like myself to carry on this task by ourselves. Join the movement. It will suck, your heart will ache in more than one occasion and it will seem like a curse. But I kid you not, it’s a blessing disguised as a curse.
You know, I wasn’t always like this. I wasn’t always this patriotic. I didn’t always bleed blue and white. There was a time in my life when I was quite the opposite. I resented everything that had to do with Somalia and Somalis.
Looking back, I try to better understand my resentment towards my heritage. For one, I could not phantom the idea that I could be from a place that’s backward, barbaric and uncivilized. A place where they killed for artificial things like family trees. A place where what family you were born into determines whether you endure a premature death or not. Most of all, I could not phantom the idea that I, Abdi, being the strong and loving person I am could be from a medieval place like that.
So the question becomes, when did the transformation happen? When did I start seeing Somalia and Somalis not as home to uncivilized barbarics and home to people with a rich, proud and deep history? The answer lies somewhere in the summer of my senior year of high school. My mom was always a storyteller of some sorts. She has a story for almost every situation. Growing up, her stories would naturally be around listening to your parents, being a good student, thinking critically and etc. Shortly after graduation, my mom still told those stories, but she added something new to the mix. She started telling stories about Somalia when she was growing up, how life was different and her hopes and dreams for the motherland.
I think what had the most effect on me was listening to my mom talk about her dreams and aspiration for her country. If someone who had every right to be mad at her current predicament could still be optimistic about the future, why couldn’t I? Granted, I have reasons to be upset with Somalia and its leaders, but my mom has a more profound reason to be upset because she was forced to leave behind everything she ever knew. She was exiled from her life, but…