” Nothing was too disgusting, even dead skin we peeled off our feet.” Abdi Iftin,”Call Me American.”
Earlier in the week, I saw a facebook post mocking this sentence. I read how people in their comfortable Western lives mocked desperation and the physical need for food.
I wondered: Have they never known hunger? Even if was due to them accidentally forgetting to pack for school or work, and then feeling so dizzy and hangry by the time they got home, or were able to get some food?
Even that is quite unbearable. But atleast,one knows that they’ll get food as soon as possible. It was not a matter of if they’ll get food, but when.
As Muslims, didn’t they fast 14,16,18 hours at times feeling the hunger pangs, dry mouth, confusion, and irritability that comes with hunger?
This lack of food was their own choice, however, and they knew food was guaranteed as soon as the sun set.
How could they not relate to hunger? How could they not imagine then not having guaranteed food, and how this could drive someone to eat almost anything to survive?
Even I, who’s never known real hunger, other than not eating when I’m supposed to and deeply regretting it when working out, or in the classroom with 30 rambunctious teenagers, could imagine this hell. Real hunger. It terrifies me.
“Desperate situations call for desperate measures.” Most people know that.
Where was their sense of humanity?
As I’m learning more and more about my own people, some things are becoming clearer.
I am realizing that although we may come from the same ethnic community, we can be very different people with different life experiences, different social classes, which can then pave way for different opinions on different aspects of life.
That should be common sense, right?
When you’re an ethnic minority outside of your homeland, your people become a singular entity, devoid of their own individual characteristics. I used to wonder why Somalis were so offended by my choice to not wear hijab, or my nerve to openly question religion. They would say things like,”We don’t do that.” And my Somali American self would say,”Who is WE? I’m just me.” *Kanye shrug *
I’ve realized just as outsiders see us as a singular entity, we also see ourselves that way.
“We’re Somalis, and this is what Somalis do or don’t do.” This leaves no room for individuality. This leaves no room for mistakes. This leaves no room for dissenting voices, or difference in opinion.
I have a lot of thoughts about the book, the discussions online, and about Somalis: our clan dynamics (author is from a minority clan, and I’m sure this influences discussions), group think, and lack of individuality, that I hope to share in the coming weeks.