This blog consists lessons learned from my friend Safaa, a Syrian refugee who has moved into my neighborhood. I started out as her teacher for English but she has become my teacher in lessons about family, love and friendship. More posts available: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/kathleen-jacobson
I just finished watching Ken Burn’s Vietnam. It is the history of the U.S getting into the war and the repercussions including deaths, protests and other historical events during that period of time spanning the 1960’s and into the 1970’s . I felt depressed after the first episode. As I continued to watch the documentary about these events that began before I was born, I had so many emotions, anger, shock and disbelief. It’s not that I didn’t believe what happened, it’s that I couldn’t believe that we let it happen All I could think is, “Why?”. I’m not the first or only person to ask this question, I am very late to the game. I knew some history on Vietnam but obviously I didn’t have a full picture. I heard about it while I was growing up as we were starting to pull troops out. For someone like me, who is interested in history to have not read widely about Vietnam as I did other wars, is I would suspect because I sensed on a deep level that it was a very complex war. I am sure I heard my parents talking about it. My parents had met on the day President Kennedy was assassinated. My father had been discharged from the Navy before America started sending troops to Vietnam. He was pro military and though, not really in favor of the war, he thought it was the best way to, “keep the commies from expanding”. He explained the domino effect to when I was a child. I asked what dominoes had to do with countries. They seemed like two different things to me. My Mother was less in favor of the war. About halfway through the documentary, after seeing the civil unrest, the assassinations and the horrible clash between protesters and police at the 1968 Democratic Convention, I called my mother.
“How could you bring a baby into the world in 1966?”
”Didn’t you have reservations considering what was happening”
“I had hope.” was my mother’s answer.
You have to have hope. You have to believe in a better world and a sure sign that you trust in humanity is to bring a baby into the world. I have no children of my own. Maybe I don’t have the hope required of me.
My Syrian refugee friend, Safaa will have her first child born in this country, an American citizen. As a newly documented resident, Safaa will also begin her path to citizenship along with the rest of the family. She has seen the destruction of bombs, blood in the streets. Even her children have seen death. The family is safe now and dealing with everyday American life. Sometimes I forget what they have been through but they don’t.
sometimes something happens like a backfire from a car and then the memory of the sniper shooting into their kitchen with one of the teenage daughters turned on the light. How does one have hope?
She is naming her daughter Shaum, which means Damascus. Will the child ever see the country of her families birth? Only time will tell, but in her name lies hope for a whole and peaceful Syria.