I never believed in Arab nationalism.
In the strictest interpretation of the term, my religion didn’t bind me to that of the majority of Arabs; the vernacular I spoke was not understood by everyone; my traditions not always shared; the history I identified with was sometimes collective but had mostly grown apart from it; and my culture seemed an eclectic mix whose origins I even failed to determine. Historical instances of institutionalized Arab nationalism seemed to provide continual examples of defeat and failure, rhetoric and repression. While considering a more liberal interpretation of nationalism in mind, what exactly were the liberal values that could bind Arab countries into a single entity? More than twenty countries being classified as Arab countries due to geographical considerations was about all I saw to it.
How could anyone blame my lack of enthusiasm, as every time I delved into the question of Arab nationalism, I immediately remembered the anecdote of a Lebanese I know and his encounter with Michel Aflaq. When the Lebanese asked Aflaq what, as a Lebanese, he had in common with a Berber from Morocco or a Bedouin from the Arabian Peninsula that could justify a union between Arab countries, Aflaq’s response was straightforward enough. His answer: silence.
Enter 2011. I still don’t believe in the rationale of a single Arab nation. Yet, I have found myself glued to the radio and television religiously following the dramatic unfolding of events in the region: anxiously anticipating the final speech of the next leader to fall; mesmerized by the power of the people as they maneuver in the face of extreme adversity; trying to read all the articles friends share on their Facebook walls; joining virtual solidarity marches; wanting to spread the news on the fantastic, sometimes surreal, moments being witnessed in my part of the world.
I’ve come to realize that this was more than a comeback by the political science student in me, hit in recent years by political fatigue and deep apathy with both local and regional politics, stuck in the same damned vicious circle with no end in sight.
I’ve come to realize that maybe something does bind me to these people calling to bring down their regimes, with whom I’ve shared a laugh at their ingenious slogans, and a tear at their suffering. Maybe we do share things in common after all. Maybe we do share a religion… that preaches hope; a language… crying for greater freedom; a tradition… of corruption; and a history… that keeps repeating itself.
Change is only the beginning, a way to turn the page and begin on a clean slate. Sometimes it is gradual, sometimes it is deep-rooted, as it should be. As an anonymous young poet once put it:“When all is absolutely wrong Nothing is where it belongs, Where chaos and disorder are the norm The only cure is a storm “A storm which destroys it all Whether short or whether tall All must fall, All, all…”
Fellow Arabs, may change provide the courage to move on, and may it not leave anyone behind…