I didn’t know I loved Lebanon this much. I didn’t know I loved America this much.
I had always struggled to find a reasonable compromise between these two extremely different cultures. I was constantly torn in two different directions, trying to connect my two worlds, my two lives. I tried, year after year, to grasp this new identity I was craving to define. I didn’t know I was already defined by an atrocious war. Yes, the war had stayed inside me. I had witnessed all of it: the atrocities and the kindness, the injustices and the compassion, the evil and the sympathy, the pain… And the healing... Through it, I had embraced and retained the good aspects of the devastating war of Lebanon; ones that taught me a lot about who I am and who I want to be.
My Lebanon has given me solid roots, three languages, beautiful traditions, a unique childhood, eternal friends, a fine education, an unyielding spirit, and exceptional memories. And for that, I am forever grateful. My America has given me new opportunities, a longed-for stability, a successful career, a safe home for my children, and true freedom. The freedom to acquire a personal sense of independence, liberation from rigid beliefs, the right to dream, and a whole new perspective on morality, compassion, and tolerance. I spent most of my adult life traveling back and forth between the two countries and I constantly found myself enmeshed with both cultures, immersed in both civilizations, utterly incapable of distancing myself from either one. Or unwilling?
I have been privileged to see each culture through the lens of the other and ultimately, appreciate it and understand it better. It was through experiencing detachment from one that I embraced the other, so successfully. And yes, I have finally understood the core of having a dual citizenship -not just in a document- but deep inside my soul. Yes, this war has taught me a lot about who I am and who I want to be. It has also enlightened me about the true feeling of belonging. It doesn’t matter anymore where I come from and what my nationality is. It doesn’t matter what are the geographical barriers of both countries or their surface areas. My identity has transcended all physical boundaries. I know who I am. I am a human being. This is my identity, highly impacted by the tenets of a distinguished movement and the mentality of an exceptional leader. I take it with me wherever I go. I stand for peace, against violence, prejudice, and war. I am a human being; an advocate for justice, democracy, and compassion towards all humans, irrespective of their background, race, gender, or religion. This is what President General Michel Aoun has taught me and thousands like me. When PGMA could not fight for these beliefs from Lebanon, he traveled to France and the USA and fervently stood for the country and people he believed in. In exile, he kept fighting for Lebanon’s sovereignty and democracy. Under his guidance, years of relentless lobbying and consciousness-raising carried out by Lebanese-American heroes like Gabriel Issa and Tony Haddad led to the passing of the most important Act in Lebanon’s history: The Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act (SALSRA passed into law on 12/13/2003). The passing of the act embodied what it truly means to stand for justice and fight for democracy, against all odds. This is the best identity I can emulate and proudly exemplify. It is a lattice of what Lebanon and America have inspired me to become. It is the same honorable identity that distinguishes many of my Lebanese-American friends who never failed to be who they truly are: Excellent human beings assiduously working toward peace, justice, and democracy. It is through the Lebanese American Council for Democracy that these great individuals have led a tenacious and heroic way in genuinely representing Lebanon and the United States by building a moral and unprejudiced platform of universal integrity and fairness.
An identity does not have to be defined by a nationality or country; it can simply be established by a secular movement and voiced by the ethical beliefs of an organization. The LACD is not just an organization; it is a dedicated group of loyal friends whose noble mission is to spread the message of democracy in Lebanon, America, and the world. Those are the unknown soldiers who helped me find my identity.
To my fellow Lebanese-Americans who like me, have spent years looking for an identity lacing the two cultures: This is not an invitation; this is an attestation of a two-fold patriotism, political freedom, and unique humanitarian unity that you will only find -and appreciate- in the LACD.
To learn more and join the Lebanese American Council for Democracy, visit www.lacd.us
Marlene M. Sabeh
LACD Media Coordinator