On The Occasion Of Independence Day

…I offer a personal story (or rather telling) about a can’t-quite-put-my-finger-on-it kind of emotion…

It’s kind of strange how Independence Day can mean different things to different people. Everyone sees it in a certain light and how they view this day is also a reflection of how they feel about the country and their place in it. Since Jordan gained its independence we, as a people, have been struggling to answer questions: Who are we? What defines us? Where does our history and culture reside? Everyone has their own answer to these questions. Till today we still have trouble defining things like nationalism and loyalty; looking to textbook definitions instead.

If I was asked these questions over a decade ago I would not be able to answer them. I would not even begin to comprehend them. Most Jordanians are born in Jordan and raised there and their thoughts on these questions can be rather jaded; it’s only natural not to concern oneself with what defines his or her society and his or her place in it if they are naturally born there. Like that cliché of a fish not knowing water till its tasted air. For me the jadedness never existed and it’s probably because I wasn’t born there. I spent the first 11 or 12 years of my life in Toronto, Canada, removed from any of these questions. To be honest even when I moved to Jordan I didn’t yet understand these questions, perhaps because they were not yet posed to me. At such an age I was concerned with one thing: the feeling rather than the definition.

What I mean by this is the feeling which consumed me since my first visit to Jordan at the age of 9: best defined as an affinity or rather the feeling of belonging. I never understood the whole concept of “feels like home”. In my mind at the time home was defined by family and friends; if you had those two things then it doesn’t matter where you are. But having a sense of true belonging is a different emotion. I felt, and continue to feel, that I was a piece of a jigsaw puzzle but unaware of it for most my life until I found Jordan (or Jordan found me) and I was suddenly shown the entire puzzle at hand and the gap, the missing piece, that was waiting for me, saving a place for me. And you settle in to that space with the feeling that “this feels right”.

And from there the rocket breaks the atmosphere and sails off into the wide universe; a voyage. My answer to all those questions lie in that very feeling. It’s the feeling that you would do anything for your parents or your wife or your children, the list of people and causes you are willing to die for. Why? Because those same people, those same causes, define who you are. You are that piece in the bigger puzzle. You serve a larger purpose. You are part of a collective. The history, the culture, the tradition, the achievements and the tragedies: all of that is your history, your culture and your tradition. You inherit it. And it doesn’t matter if it comes through blood or birth; it is not defined by linage. It’s rather like a dormant light switch in the corner of my mind I had never noticed and just by being in Jordan that switch automatically turned on and I was suddenly forced to consider all these things for the first time: “things just click” is the cliché I’m looking for.

And that is my definition, or rather my sense, of what nationalism is; it’s a realisation, an emotion and from that a devotion. Whether it’s born in a single moment or having been there all the while, waiting, in both instances it grows. The flag, the colors, the crown, the black iris and just all those small symbols we tend to take for granted, those things are important. They are a constant reminder of what defines us, what we devote ourselves to. Beneath them lies a deeper meaning; a history. And they resonate from the buildings in Amman to the sands of Wadi Rum, the salty rocks of the Dead Sea, the fields in the Valley, the hills of Ajloun and the shores of the Read Sea.

And it was a strange thing for me after a while. Growing older and developing this â??sense of dutyâ?. The sense that I have to go back and play some role in this society and in this country, because serving it is serving that â??higher purposeâ?. A sense of duty that says things are never good enough and they can always be better and that whatever role you play will be for that purpose: the betterment. Here I am, halfway across the world from home, and all I think about is going back. Not out of nostalgia but out of an eagerness to serve purely and utterly out of devotion.

I also wanted to end this post by saying that the country has been through a lot these past few months. We’ve had terrorist attacks and attempts to undermine our security and our way of life. So I’m saying a little prayer that the country and its people stay strong in these tough times.

Happy Independence Day!


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