When you work, live, interact, and deal with arabs, you’ll tend to get a different picture of what they look like. The sad thing, to start with, is the fact that they left home long long time ago and they got stuck in the twilight zone. They left home many years ago, and they were shocked with the new western society that confused them. The solution was to try to hold on as much as possible with traditions, while slowely melting in this melting pot of American society. It doesn’t sound as difficult, but bear with me.
The first thing is the language. Arabs in the states have a unique distinctive accent, or dialect. Seriously, you could tell who is arab-american by simply listening to his/her words. They, arabs, held on to the mother language, which is 50 years old probably, and were disconnected from back-home due to their fear of melting completely in this new western society. Words like “elsayyaarah mlayycheh” (meaning the car is leaking) or “barracht elsayyarah” (I parked the car) started surfacing quickly. Sometime you hear “20 ryaal” meaning 20 dollars..or qaraaat (meaning quarters) also found a place in the arab language. I could go on with the list like storaat (stores) 6awaabe3 (food stamps) pampaat (gas station pumps) ya chuzen (cousin) and so forth. The sad thing is you’ll hear this from 7 years old girls who live in the USA in 2006.
Then there is the attitude…yes the attitude. I participated in an organization called ACCESS which deals with different arab issues, social that is. During my 4 months participation, I saw many things that drove me nutts. There was a girl, a 16 years old girl, who ran out of the house because her uncle rapped her, and she can’t tell anyone fearing that they’ll kill her. Another boy who brought a knife to school to stab another teenage boy because he flirted with his sister. A 15 years old girl ran out because the imam of the local mosque wanted to approve her marriage to another man, and her family were signing on the approval. A woman who was beaten by her husband for he thought she was cheating on him, and burned her arms. Another woman who was sexually abused by her husband in ways she couldn’t tolerate it. A young man who stabed his cousin because his cousin opened a new store next to his. A widow who is in need of money. An old man who came in crying because his 2 teenage boys converted to Christianity. A father who sees his daughter doing all bad stuff, from drugs to sex, and he can’t do anything to her because the law prevents him. Many stories, specially from teenagers that will make you cry inside out knowing you can’t help them, except via disconnecting them totally from their parents to protect them from any reprisals. ACCESS is located on Lorain street and W93rd street for those who are interested anyway.
But the most troubling story to me was a young arab woman, 20 years old, where her uncle saw her walking home from her work, and offered to give her a ride home. During the ride, he touched her in places where she felt uncomfortable, and tried to molest her, or maybe rape her. She screamed and opened the door and got out. He tried to talk her into going back in the car but she refused. Then she complained to her parents, who got angry at the uncle. They then sat down to make peace, and the outcome was that the uncle will pay 10,000 dollars compensation, and he did. The father got paid, and the uncle got off the hook, and the young woman was left devastated by such actions. She felt that her honor was sold out for 10,000 dollars and she was right in feeling that way.
Then you look at education. There is a large community of arabs in Cleveland. Yet, very very few that go to college. Here is how it works. The father owns a store or a gas station. His daughter is 15 years old, so he takes her off school to protect her honor, or his honor I should say. Then his boys are also taken out of school to help out in the stores. What you are left with is a family, that is uneducated, even education is free, and are so backwords in their language or way of thinking that makes you wonder. Many parents in Palestine and Jordan sell their land, so they can provide money for their kids to study in America, and these arabs here don’t even use the free education system? No wonder that there are generations after generations that know nothing but gas stations or stores. This is really sad. It’s sad when you see 6 arab American college students in the university, and you know that there are many out there.
I coached soccer for the local arab girls, 14 and under, and had so much fun with these girls. The looks on their eyes when they have fun playing a sport. I swear I enjoyed every moment watching girls fight about fouls or screaming “3ammo…she started it”..it was really fun. But the sad part is you look around and you see 3 mothers only sitting away and no fathers. There were more than 30 girls, and only 3 mothers? And no fathers? Then I look at the baseball field next to us and I see parents rooting for their kids and makes you wonder, these girls can’t even get 2 hours from their parents to watch them play sport? The girls didn’t feel that of course because they are used at it..but I could feel it. I wanted these little girls to feel appreciated. Can you imagine the smile on their face when a father screams “that’s my girl” when she kicks the ball? I felt sad for them for I wanted them to feel that they are just like the other kids. Not even 2 hours a week? That’s ok anyway..the icecream trip after the game meant great for them, and for me too. For those who are familiar with Cleveland, this practice used to take place up until 4 years ago in a park next to west gate mall in Westlake.
When I started to fast again, I used to go to a local arab society (I won’t mention the name here) to break my fast. Families used to cook and bring the food for the single students like myself. In one day, I walked through the door, and it was still fasting time, and found guys smoking and sipping coffee while gambling. There was money on the table so I knew they were gambling. We walked to the food tables, and as soon as it was ok, we started eating. Then the guys walked in and said “go an eat..we are going to throw it away if you don’t anyway”. At the spot..I lost my appetite, and walked out of the place. It’s not like we needed the food or anything, all we needed is a taste of home where we see families around us to remind us with home, not because of the food. We are all capable of buying and dining out.
Those who lived in Cleveland during the ninties can easily remember the FBI busts on arab stores and homes. Here is a situation. Sometime in 1994 or 95, there was a major bust, and the FBI caught more than 20 arabs, men and women, exchanging foodstamps for cash. Food stamps are a some coupons that the government issues for poor families in the slumps of Cleveland. These poor families will then exchange these food stamps, for cash, at a value of maybe 75% of the original value. They needed the cash to buy drugs and alcohol, and arabs took advantage of that. So the FBI busted more than 20 familes, and the TV station loved it as they showed the faces of arab men and women in jail waiting to pay bail. In addition, the FBI busted the homes of those arabs only to find hundreds of thousands of dollars stacked in shoe boxes in attics and basements. The store owners couldn’t deposit the money into the bank because the government will ask them about the money. Hence, those guys lost everything. Of course, some arabs “civic leaders” started crying foul and that the government is after arabs in general. Well, why give them the excuse? Whats wrong is wrong, and feeding on those poor families to make wealth is wrong, regardless if the government was after arabs or not.
Arabs also mastered the technique of being on welfare (to collect government aid) while owning wealth. They could be driving hummers, and spending food stamps in the store. They also masterd the coupons where they clip coupons from the newspapers and send them to the vendor for face value. Again, those who lived in Cleveland know such busts. The tax code meant nothing for arabs. The store owner would claim that he is only making profit of 20,000 dollars, yet, he owns a mansion (registered in his wife’s name). How does the wife get away? That’s easy. They marry in the mosque only, not in the civic center, so the state doesn’t know that they are married. That’s when it hurts women the most when they get divorced, and right after they give up the houses without their knowledge by signing the deed to a cousin of the husband. Hey, arab mothers (generally) don’t know how to read or write English.
It is sad to see how arab families struggle to live in the states. One look at their kids, or their way of life and you’ll quickly come to realize that this is a very sad situation. Kids are usually the best investment for the future. You can work hard in building an emire of wealth, and when you die, your children will spend it in a very short time on bad things because you didn’t spend enough time with them to teach them how to survive.
Crazy & random thoughts
8 years ago