Syria is your ancestors’ country but not necessarily yours. I say that because I am convinced that you are free to choose who you become, and where you belong to irrespective of my influence and heritage. Still, if you ever elect to present yourself as Syrian please don’t hesitate to do so, and never be distracted by the currently rampant civil war.
In fact, you should feel immensely proud because Syria has existed since the earliest stages of civilisation, and has always continued to flourish irrespective of the madness of men. Syria is an idea that is much larger than the country marked by the fake borders. This idea is one of the reasons the war is raging over there.
On the other hand, Syria for me is the centre of the universe. It is the place that I spent the first thirty years of my life in. It is where I had many firsts; the first walk in the rain, the first buzzer beater in a basketball game, the first religious discussion, the first kiss, the first breakup, the first drink, and many others. Syria is where my parents, relatives and my childhood but lifelong friends lived. It is where many of these loved ones continue to live. Syria is where I spent many days in the nourishing company of all these people, and grew up safely and slowly to become a man.
Ironically, I wasted many days in Syria planning to leave it. I did so to follow my ambition, passion and dreams. Now, that I have been outside Syria for the last fifteen years, I am not able to stop missing every detail of my past life there; wishing I lived a fuller life, or stayed a bit longer, or visited more often.
Many Syrian will talk in a similar way about Syria, but regrettably all Syrians including me proved to have never been mature enough to appreciate our differences, or to understand that we fully complemented each other in that fantastic place. A complicated formula of a dictatorship, radicalism, conflicting international interests, lack of influential ideologists, venomous neighbors, and many other factors has led to the eruption of a war that is yet to reach its full destructive potential.
I will write about this war and my memories in Syria in other letters, but for now I will leave you with one more contradiction to accept and learn to deal with. This is the observation that the awesome music of sweet memories, dreams, and life continues to play, even though the actors continue to kill each other, and continue to be engulfed in their wild hate. Could you accept that?