I am a woman. I am a student. I am an American combat veteran. I am Muslim. I am many things. We are all many things. Lately, I find myself identified by others in a hundred different ways and almost none of them actually represent who I am as a person. There is something changing in my country of origin and its confounding to me. The United States used to be somewhere I felt comfortable to be myself with all my complexities. In the last few weeks I have been faced with a changing reality.
I have sworn three pledges in my life; to God, country and the love of my life. I have taken them seriously and am presently faced with doubt about my pledge to country. I swore to defend the Constitution of the United States when I joined the Army several years ago. Today, the civil liberties granted and protected by that piece of paper are under assault and I am unsure of how to proceed. It’s an ethical dilemma I never thought I’d be faced with in my lifetime. I am proud of my service, even if I still struggle with some of the events of my service. I carry a strange burden of being privileged socially because I am a veteran yet hurt and frustrated because so many of my compatriots speak pejoratively about Muslims. My experience in Iraq forever changed me. Seeing the damage humans can inflict upon each other for no particular reason horrified me. It made me a pacifist. It also forced me to assess my opinions and assumptions and educate myself on more sides of the story. There are still moments in my life and from my time in service I haven’t made peace with.
God is balancing much of my anxiety around my country. What brings me the most comfort in this harrowing time of rapid and unpredictable change is that we were all born of the same soul. That God created differences amongst us, yet we are all the same. The superficial categorizing of identity and manufactured social hierarchy don’t matter; it’s what is in someone’s heart that matters. (I would like to add on a secularist note, that whatever creed one chooses to follow is none of my business. Faith is a private matter.) Another bit of comfort for me comes from knowing that while humans are capable of extreme violence, bigotry and division the inverse is equally true. Humanity has the capacity to be open, kind and loving. It is entirely possible to overlook perceived differences and embrace one another. At the end of the day it is my belief that people all want the same things. Healthy happy families, clean water, nutritious food, education, freedom of movement and the ability to be and express themselves without fear of reprisal for being “different”. It’s the differences that make us uniquely beautiful in our own ways.
My pledge to the love of my life is being tested by my country. My partner and I have different passports. Unlike my passport, his lists his religion and that brings me a new worry. It breaks my heart that one little word on a piece of paper may prohibit him from seeing my beloved California. To honor my promise and love for him, our family, Ummah, my country and the world I will continue to do my humble best to speak up when there is injustice. I will not back away from doing what is moral and ethical because the other option is easier. I am not afraid because I am strong. It is my promise to the world to remain strong and continue to advance my knowledge and promote justice.
This article is written by K. Diab.