[for those who have been displaced] لالنازحین
Honi Soit Writing Competition 2020 non-fiction shortlist.
Disruption, rejoice. Disruption, celebrate. Disruption, euphoria. If the metaphysical collided with the physical in an eruption of Mount Vesuvius proportions in my life, disruption would be a bathtub filled with marshmallows, and I would be found in the middle, bathing, melting, and draping myself in it. “Comfort in the chaos” I chant, sinking further into the calming rhythm of being enveloped by something I know so well, something I now embrace, something I know connects me to my world around me. My mind wanders to my heartbeat, the ultimate human display of the beauty of disruption. The cardiac symphony, a still pause, a moment of reflection and rejuvenation, then the conductor disrupts the silence, nerves and muscles fire in symphonic disruption then in a split second, the isovolumic contraction disrupts the body like the clash of symbols announcing the beginning of a symphony. May this story be a challenge to those who abhor distribution, to those who push it away, this article is a call to embrace the loss, embrace the disruption; as it is essential that we wield our disruption and use it as motivation to leave the world a more just and compassionate place.
The first disruption in my life came in the form of a bombing. It was 2006, I was 12 years old and had fled to the mountains of Lebanon, to the Notre Dame du Mont nunnery. The nuns were accepting those displaced from their homes, including myself and my family, who were fleeing from the Hezbollah stronghold of Tyre; a city where I had spent the 10 years of my life. We arrived and were embraced with open arms. My child-like mind realized the bombings were quieter in the mountains. The earth shaking airstrikes, the rhythm of the buildings swaying, all of the formative experiences from the south, had transformed into the faint sounds of birds in the trees and the church bells ringing. There was quiet, there was calm, in those glorious, safe, mountains. I’ll never forget the week of blissful solace, where my 12 year old self was free of the burden of the thought of war. However, there are no happy endings in wars. And like every heartbeat, like every disruption, that week of laughter and safety was the quiet before the eruption. I scuttled up the ancient monastery stairs, them, groaning under the weight of my bouncy youthfulness. Up I went to my room to retrieve my sunglasses from the blaring solar flares of the June sun streaming through the atmosphere. Then silence, followed by an immediate pressure change, as though I had stood up too quickly and vertigo snatched me from my immediate realm. It was a flickering feeling like you had been ripped in a thousand pieces, suspended in a gravity-less world. Then the auditory compression of the explosion brought those thousand splintered pieces of myself back together and I let out a deafening scream of a child who knew fear, who knew life was ending, who knew she would be a casualty statistic, flashed across the screen of a CNN news report. The ceiling collapsed on my body. Tinnitus and vertigo disrupting my inner ear at every attempt to escape. I tried to run, dusty, frightened, and crying.
A day later my family and I evacuated on a US military war cruiser which set sail for Turkey. A child’s mind is a wondrous thing as I lived out my childhood dreams of eating military supplied pop-tarts and ready-to-eat meals, reveling in a world of sugar and not having to do the dishes. During the voyage, I slept on a cot, on the exposed bow of the cruiser, as there were no more beds available. The majority of the two day sailing I spent my time hiding under a lifeboat during the day to keep the harsh glare of the Mediterranean sun off of my skin and trying to understand the events of the past weeks.
It has been 14 years, 1 month, and 5 days since that moment. For many of those years I chose to ignore that disruption. I chose to ignore the vast trauma of my childhood. I buried it. However, trauma is a ballast that no matter how many times you throw overboard hoping it will sink to the depths of the ocean, it always remains visible in the distance. Trauma is a crippling, choking, weed that grows, and regrows, with roots that grow in an infinity eight-shape in your mind. I chose to fight it for many of those years, disassociating from the pain.
However, my story begins when I decided to embrace the pain, embrace the trauma, and embrace chaos and disruption. In doing so, it has allowed me to embrace compassion, embrace justice, and wield the most horrifying of circumstances to connect myself to my community and uplift the most vulnerable within it. It is a united, common story that I share with the millions of displaced men, women, and children of Lebanon, Yemen, Palestine and the further 80 million displaced refugees of the world. Therefore, I have chosen to rise and recognize my fellow men, women, and children who have walked beside me, displaced. We all have stories of displacement, however this paper is a challenge, to not hide our trauma, but to use it, to ask ourselves the questions: how can our stories of displacement encourage you to uplift your community? And even when the pain of loss and displacement feels unbearable, how can we continue to ask ourselves what we are willing to give up in to exist and live in a more compassionate world? There are many individual answers but there will be no justice, peace, and care for the most vulnerable in this world until we recognize our own displacement stories in theirs.