How Was Your Day … Palestinian-American Muslim Jew?
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because hearing someone hold forth with some certainty about a region that’s anything but can be a wonder to behold.
In this occasional series, OZY takes to streets and neighborhoods across the globe to ask a simple question: “How was your day?”
Greensboro, North Carolina
Life’s kinda fucked. I’m feeling more and more like a maniac every day, because of this obsessive compulsion I have to somehow continue to matter after I die. Ignore the sob story, because it’s not the point here. Society is fucked and civilization itself, as it is, could be a lower form of social order.
But this is going to blow your mind: I’m a Palestinian-American Muslim Jew. My dad’s from the occupied West Bank. My mother’s family were/are Slavic Jews. My mom is a Peace Corps baby: She grew up in Venezuela and Colombia in the ’60s and ’70s. She didn’t come to the U.S. until her teenage years and basically had to learn English then. Her dad, my late grandfather, was a relatively well-known painter, sculptor and artist from southwest Virginia named Peter Wreden with a whole Jackson Pollock–like story of his own. His father, my great-grandfather, was an alcoholic doctor who was the surgeon to the czar before the revolution, and a writer. There’s a hospital building in St. Petersburg named after him. He wrote a book called The Unmaking of a Russian.
My dad’s story is just as interesting. Our family was quite wealthy before ’47, ’48, being the chiefs of our “tribe,” but we were removed from the land by force (my dad’s uncle was killed) and driven into immediate poverty outside of Jerusalem in a suburb called Nablus. The family moved to Kuwait and other places before settling in Jordan, in 1990. Somehow, in the midst of all this, I happened. My parents met in college. I went back to Jordan this past summer for the first time in more than 10 years. The last time I was in Jordan, in the west of the country you could hear the air strikes being laid down in Iraq.
When you watch your muscles waste off your body slowly, it tends to change your perspective on life and the universe.
My story is not as interesting. I did karate as a kid, judo in high school and trained MMA-hard for almost two years. I had always been slim, and a couple of years back I decided to bulk up. I was having physical troubles, so I went to a wellness center, got some steroids and started lifting. Which helped uncover the fact that I have an untreatable degenerative neuromuscular disease. Life’s been a shit avalanche since; almost three years later, I’m only now starting to recover from the initial shock. To top that off, my best friend, Mookie, died in my arms just last August, having a seizure from encephalitis.
I’m keeping it together as much as possible. But holding anger in is so tiring, I try to let it out in healthy ways on a daily basis. A work in progress, for sure.
When you watch your muscles waste off your body slowly, it tends to change your perspective on life and the universe. I know I could be better and healthy with unlimited resources, but society isn’t structured that way. There’s still some hope, but the kind that requires gullibility.
I’ve lost my belief in God, and in the majority of Homo sapiens. Take the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as an example. I’ve known and respected both cultures, and everything is so similar, down to language and mannerisms. Palestinian Arabs and Jews are both so stubborn, I think we might end up taking each other out in the end. Kind of like how people at the bar like to point out the breadth of my conflict of identity, saying things like, “Shouldn’t you blow yourself up then?”
Hope for the best, expect the worst. Be prepared for it if possible. You’ll never truly know if and when you are. The Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi advocated a one-state solution in Palestine-Israel, did you know that? And he supposedly died at the hands of a mob with a stick up his ass. Unless you’re making more than half a million dollars a year it doesn’t matter what you think anyway.
Suddenly made fruitful my teeming memory,
As I walked across the new Carrousel.
— Old Paris is no more (the form of a city
Changes more quickly, alas! than the human heart)
— from “The Swan,” Charles Baudelaire