America-Diversity and the Importance of What connects us.

When it comes to faith, there is a lot you won’t learn about me based on the box I check.

Throughout my life I’ve believed. I never knew in what or how, yet somehow I believed–believed validating my faith is something only I can do.

I know in my heart, right down to the core, that there is much more to life–creation itself–than could be explained by any one thing. I chose faith with great hesitation then I relied on where my faith lead me. Once I chose faith I had to go with it. Whether one “believes” or not is not a way to define. All I need to know is that whatever I need or needed could and can  be found in the power of my belief, my integrity, my choices, my actions; never just one thing. Never alone. Faith meant allowing myself to see the world as an intricate, never-ending connection to others.

My dad always came to me with a question that became my pillar when I doubted.  He would ask me what I thought would happen after death? Reminding me that somewhere out there exists an unidentified number of souls who were never taught religion, prayer, rules, hymns, even language, existed and passed. It was the question I would never know the answer to; I’d always wonder how many before me?

What about newborn babies, civilizations past, present…even extinction? Things not tangible always left me believing because I didn’t want to wonder about them. I had to believe that there was more.

If I could dream it, didn’t I see it?  How would “they” be judged if they never received the word of God? My dad simplified this, yet it remains too complex for me. I can’t articulate my beliefs in a concrete way because I believe that the basics of things like the Ten Commandments are something we are born with. We are born humane. We are taught to be inhumane.

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I know that a cell phone works yet I can’t create or build one. That is magic. If I can believe in dinosaurs, I can believe in dragons. I believe in good and  I believe in evil. I believe in what lies in between. The spectrum of possibilities is open. I do believe that there is a definite proof of evil, and  unquestionable proof of divine goodness.

Moving around like my family did allowed me an opportunity that many never had. A chance to see the world with an open mind , unwavering curiosity and acceptance of the diversity of humanity. I was, and still am, privileged. I can’t deny that while many sacrificed everything; my father worked hard using diplomacy, grace, kindness, empathy in order to raise us in world not jaded by the harsh reality of why were immigrants, refugees. We never starved. We never worried if we would have running water, clean water or food. We believed because our parents gave us something tangible to believe in-each other.

Faith wasn’t a topic I wanted for Open Thought Vortex; it scares me …now more than ever. Not facing that fear could now cause irreversible damage.

I didn’t want faith as a theme because in my experience nothing good comes from declaring or speaking about faith. Then I got a call from my dad. It was surreal–his voice on the other line breaking our code of implied conduct by reaching out to me, his youngest daughter to say “Baba, you know that religion isn’t the same as faith?  Remember when I made you take that class, you know Magic, Witchcraft & Religion?”

His question rang my bell. “Yes, I thought it was a huge waste of time but I ended up taking way too many sociology classes. Why? What’s up?”

“Look around today. Don’t turn your TV off because you can’t face the world. This is the world your children will know. I can’t move you like I used to when you were a child. There is no safe place for anyone anymore. I’m telling you this because I know people ask you about Islam & Lebanon. I see how you you dance. Don’t dance. You’re not a dancer. You’re not a terrorist. I’m not a terrorist…you don’t know a single terrorist. If you decide to talk about faith, remind everyone it’s not religion. Remind them that you don’t want anyone hurt. That even one soldier’s life is too much.”

He was urging me to be honest, to use good judgment , raise my voice, consider the world around me and make it count. As he continued, I listened to every nuance of his voice as he spoke to me in both English and Arabic; he reminded me ” There is is more to Arab, Middle Eastern culture than the word Islam covers. Men like Trump will come after your fears. They will make them a reality. Don’t get it mixed with truth. Propaganda, rhetoric is everywhere. Even you use it when you write a lead someone else asks you to do.”

His words fluid, triggering every synaptic nerve in my brain; as he continued I wrote down his words so I could quote him. He said, “I know why you really quit writing. It was your gender, your ethnicity , your ability to understand Arabic & most of all that box you defiantly check as Muslim when you’ve never set foot in a mosque. Don’t dance. You don’t like the song but you can change the station. Good night. Call your mom. She had a dream about you. Love you. Good night.”

What transpired in that conversation had absolutely nothing to do with God or prayer. My father was speaking to me because he was afraid. We–not just Americans, the world –we have a lot to be afraid of. We’ve turned our guns inward. We’ve gotten ourselves to an atomic level. We’ve picked our targets, locked and loaded our intent not to repair; rather we are aiming to seek , destroy and satisfy our most undereducated, under employed, battle-worn citizens because they just don’t know better. At some point we stopped caring enough to learn. Started treating democracy as an annoyance because voting meant you might get jury duty. The Constitution we forged, ratified, and amended is nothing more than fading memory. Instead of maintaining our education and progress we settled for gluttony and privilege. 

Millennials far and wide are coming to vote to rallies, conventions…war parties.  War. Don’t mistake these words for the words you see on your newsfeed, hear on the radio, see on tv or read. I’m not an anchor or reporter worried about ratings or sponsors. I’m at a circus I never bought a ticket for.

Readers, I am asking you to please find the faith inside yourself to vote. It may seem bleak but we will not fall like dominos. Write in your candidate. Despite what you think you do have the power to be counted. Whether you vote in person or by mail take the time to vote. Even if you are deployed, vote. Observe, think then vote.

As I watch the chaos consume the hearts of our nation I am reminded of my mother. She gave me a voice. Aided by a supporting father, they honed into what they considered my greatest strength. Bringing people together. Asking them to speak so I may hear them. Speaking so they may hear me.

I believe in America. I believe in all of you. OTV Magazine has grown beyond expectations because each reader and author knows without question that our mission is to bridge that gap. Bring forth the beauty of diversity , retailing the integrity of democracy , freedom and equality. . . I believe because you have given me faith in you.