Sunday, August 17, 2008
this is me, mohamad. 2008. i wanted to interrupt for a bit. a little hindsight i'd like to share. about something that came up in passing in my previous post, but should be addressed. it's about ISA, my old school.
honestly, i hesitated in hyperlinking to ISA's wikipedia page. even mentioning the school entirely. but i did. it's not that i think the wikipedia page is biased. though most everything about the school in the news, from 2001 through today, has been (see the "Controversy" or "References" sections in ISA's wikipedia entry). not just biased... but xenophobic, at best. and, at worst, racist. i guess that's why i wasn't sure if i wanted to go there.
in fact, i wasn't even sure if it was an important part of this story... of my being in cameroon. of peace and freedom. and of presence. but it actually is. much of this is about how "an Arab Muslim boy who grew up in America came to understand himself (and the world) more fully in Central Africa," right? well, ISA is a big part of how this Arab Muslim boy grew up in America.
it's interesting to note, if it hasn't already become an obvious theme, that one of my struggles in cameroon was coming to terms with my American identity. i remember thinking, during training in Babadjou, that i'd never felt as American in my life as i did in cameroon. somehow i'd taken that for granted growing up in America, even in my cross-cultural bubble of a school (see our curriculum)... and even through 4 years of college and a couple years of work in the US. it wasn't until i really had to deal with a 3rd culture in my life – cameroonian – that this became most apparent.
in some ways, i was more like a cameroonian than an american... especially if those cameroonians happened to be muslim. but even if they weren't, many of my cameroonian friends and colleagues noticed these similarities. particularly when my very arab mother came to visit. but both they and i also noticed that, in many more ways, i was unlike them (and my mother, for that matter) and more like my american compatriots. this was my arab muslim american hybrid identity. contrapuntal, as Edward Said so melodically put it.
but back to ISA... the cultural bubble where – though they didn't teach us music, much to my younger brother Offendum's offense – one or two of the independent melodic lines of my contrapuntal perspective (the arab muslim, that is) were nurtured. the only thing that was (is?) really wrong with ISA, as far as i was concerned, was that it didn't explicitly teach this arab muslim boy that he was also growing up american. because he was.
so i had to wait to learn that – i mean really learn that – in cameroon. in many ways, and in hindsight, i'm thankful for that delay. thankful b/c now i get to tell this story... and b/c i'm really happy with where this story is taking me. so i give thanks.