Sunday, August 26, 2007

Ode to Rick's

This past weekend I went to the Giant's game with a few friends and then proceeded to go to a bar in downtown San Francisco called Bar None. The second I walked in, it instantly came rushing back. This bar reminded me of a better place....Rick's American Cafe.

Bon Jovi was blasting, the floor was sticky, beer pong tournaments were taking place in the back, and the place smelled of age old beer...Rick's

There I was, at a bar that smelled and felt like our favorite hang out in Ann Arbor, but it wasn't. I realized this when I got a phone call at 11:02pm my time (2:02am ET) from friends that had just walked out of Rick's -- they said that it wasn't the same without me, that they were planning on going back to my apartment at UT to smoke 'hookah', and that I better have it ready.

I never liked Rick's. It was never about Rick's. The ceiling looks like it fucking drips, the people piss me off, and it smells like ass. I went to Rick's because my friends went to Rick's. I grew to like the music because it made me think of the last time it played and the memories that were made. It was a place for post-meetings and post-games, and was often followed by late nights at my apartment where we discussed everything from Hezbollah to the MCRI to how Jake could finish a case of beers in one sitting.

These pictures are just a few of the hundreds taken at the place that became our second home when graduation was approaching (apologies to those not pictured -- so many to choose from). While facebook may house hundreds of more pictures, the memories are endless and the friendships priceless. Although my time was short with my friends in 08, they definitely played a large role in the memories as well. After all, this is the place where they pointed out "this is why I'm hot", this is where I learned that white girls can indeed dance (well, some of them), and where we said our final goodbye on graduation night.

Bottles were spun, sins were committed, and fun was had.

I'll see you at Rick's soon enough. Same time, same place.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Great ol' U.S. of A

This is an issue I have wanted to write about for a long time, but it becomes increasingly more difficult.

There was a point in my life where I was extremely proud to be an American. Times have changed, though. It's difficult to be an Arab in the United States; contrary to popular belief, it has always been difficult -- not just post 9/11. Nonetheless, the current administration has waged war on "terror" -- an intangible ideology that applies to any country and religion at whatever time they deem appropriate. The countries and people that have suffered the most are ones that hit close to home -- sometimes too close, sometimes it hits the apartment next door.

Unjust and unconstitutional legislation has been passed; innocent Arab-Americans are awaiting charges in jail, and Iraqi's are dying by the hundreds everyday. It is difficult to be a proud American. Many of my friends and family members find themselves juggling their identities in this point in history. A sense of guilt hangs over our heads as the United States has just pledged another $30 billion to Israel over the next 10 years. I also find myself lost in thought when staring at "Support the troops" stickers. I am not sure how people define 'support.' I wish for their safe return home, but I do not support the destruction and occupation. Occupation is never justified.

A cloud of ignorance hangs over this country, and there is little understanding of anything outside the scope of an individual's intermediate life. However, the profusion of international news available on the Internet has made it increasingly difficult for the average American to ignore the rest of the world, a trend that threatens Americans' long, proud history of disregarding anything not about them. This is scaring most Americans, as they realize they are acquiring knowledge regarding other countries then their own.

Facetious, I know. Nonetheless, I want to be proud. I yearn for that sense of community here, but it's hard. I want to be thankful for the prosperity and opportunity without reservation -- without feeling guilty about why I am so fortunate to begin with. My parents worked long and hard, and this country gave them the opportunity to not only survive, but thrive. I think there are some great things to be proud of here. I think that Americans are polite, sweet people. I love softball, fireworks, and bbq on a summer day. I love the great American cities, the top notch education, and capitalism. I hope that the United States finds itself content one day; I hope that the imperialistic nature dies; I hope that Americans strive to understand the world as it is, and not how lobbying groups portray it. I am waiting until I can firmly say, I am PROUD to be an American.

Friday, August 17, 2007

World Cup 2010: South Africa


It's one of the very few words that means the same thing to everyone in the world. It invokes the same emotion and produces the same reactions -- a universal word if you will...

The next World Cup will be held in South Africa in 2010. WHO'S COMING WITH ME?!

So, here's the dillio:
There are a total of 3 million tickets available for the games (there are approximately 6.6 billion people in the world). The odds suck, huh? Well, it gets worse.

a) 1 million tickets go to South Africans and the rest of Africa
Possible Solution: Although I am not African, my uncle lives in Egypt and works for the Arab League. Hmm...
b) 1 million tickets go to sponsors
Possible Solution: I don't think Google has any eggs in that basket. It's okay. MAYBE I will become friends with someone that works/worked at Nike, and just MAYBE they will look into some connections for me. I'm just sayin...
c) The remaining 1 million go to...THE REST OF THE WORLD
Possible Solution: um, sucks.

I will worry about tickets later. Until then, I am going to pretend I'm going and will talk about how amazing it's gonna be. South Africa has got to be one of the more interesting places in the world:

-- In 1948, a White government came to power and enforced a separation of races with its policy called apartheid (I am really not going to go there right now). SA's political history was intriguing enough, but even more-so with the apartheid murderers recently convicted.
-- Not to mention, the country has 11 official languages. I really don't think most Americans can name 11 languages.
-- Sadly, SA also has the second highest number of HIV/AIDS patients in the world; 1 in 7 citizens have HIV/AIDS
-- It will be the first African country to hold the World Cup and that makes me happy :) Hopefully, the World Cup will bring millions of dollars to the country (and hopefully, for once, it will go to the right people).

Assuming I go, the main attraction of my visit will be the World Cup. The thought of watching the top football clubs play before my eyes is unreal. The matches will definitely be entertaining, but so will the most loyal fans in the world. Football fans are, for lack of a better word, crazy. Football has halted Civil Wars, revolutionized civil rights, and given countries hope.

I hope to see you there.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Project here and there...

I was concerned that post-graduation, I would have a hard time finding projects outside of work that are rewarding. Luckily, I have incredibly inspirational friends, and have found some things to work on that really inspire me. I have listed them below. I urge you to either contribute to them or read about them:

The Olevolos Project
Help some Michigan Alumni (Class of 2007) build an orphanage in Tanzania. These people were in class with you, some of them proudly wore the Block M on the soccer field, and most importantly, they are my friends :) The website looks great and gives a detailed account of what the Project aims to do. This may be one of the most amazing student run organizations to come out of the U.

MED Surplus of Michigan:
A couple guy friends from Michigan started this organization over the summer. It's a non-profit corporation that approaches various healthcare institutions in Michigan with the hopes of receiving donations of excess medical supplies and equipment. The goal is to redistribute these resources to needy healthcare institutions throughout the world. They have chosen Lebanon as the first shipment location :) If you have questions or know of where they can get their hands on more supplies, please contact either George Ghareeb ( or Justin Khoriaty (

Also, I am getting pretty Fired Up about the upcoming football season:

All these people are under the age of 22.

"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."

Saturday, August 11, 2007

"Palestine? You mean like, Pakistan?"

I remember when I decided to stop having the endless, frustrating, and unfocused debates about the Arab-Israeli conflict. Ironically, it was at an event called 'Solidarity Day' in the Diag, which was hosted by a pro-Palestinian organization. I had a clear shot of a table that had been set up in the center of the Diag next to our beloved 'M'. It was interesting that the 'M' brought them together, but it seemed like that is where their similarities ended. On one side, members of the pro-Palestinian community, on the other side, many members of the pro-Israel community; only this time, they were separated by a table, not the 20ft apartheid wall in Palestine. Anyway, there they were, shouting and screaming at each other. I approached the table and heard someone say, "It's called the IDF! Israeli DEFENSE Forces. That's the only thing they do: defend Israel!" I was perplexed by his statement, and replied, "That's like saying the Patriot Act is the PATRIOT Act. It's about patriotism, not racism and racial profiling." He looked at me and said, "You're stupid and don't make any sense." With that, I walked away from the public and unfacilitated conversations regarding the issue. Apparently, I was far too "stupid" for this debate.

I have tried to avoid the senseless conversations on facebook and have aimed my energy at dialogue with those that want to listen. I have learned a lot from having these conversations, and I hope to continue to have them. I tend to ignore ridiculous statements made on both sides, but today, I couldn't help but comment. I came across someone's blog and their entry was titled, "Don't Give Up the Golan!"; they claimed that Israel shouldn't give up the Golan Heights because it is "integral to the security of the State of Israel." That was the sum of the argument. I was pissed for a couple reasons: 1) I completely disagree with the logic and as you will see below, have my own opinions about this and other Israeli occupied territories, and 2) I believe that the writer of the blog spent 2 paragraphs making an argument that he thought would go uncontested. I think that a lot of people who blindly support the state of Israel don't realize that there is a valid and considerable alternative way of seeing things. I am not sure they have heard it articulated, and I don't think they are used to people saying, "No. I think you are wrong. I see things this way..."

It is for this reason that I sometimes do voice my opinion. I do not think that I will convince the people who already have their minds made up. I do think, however, that I may show them that another valid argument exists. In the United States, the Palestinian or Arab side is often censored and more often than not, dehumanized and villainized. To many people, I am a human and far from a villain. Maybe my opinion will have someone think twice about an issue that seems very black and white. Maybe not. What do I have to lose? (Now that I think about it, maybe a lot, but eh. My last name sealed it for me. My political career was over before it started.) Anyway, I commented on this individual's blog. I encourage you to read it, and let me know if you want to discuss it some more. This is it:

Sirene said...

I am not sure I understand your logic. Because it is in Israel's best interest to occupy the Golan Heights, then it has a right to do so? Clearly, you realize how destructive this ideology is if every state adopted it, don't you?

I don't think it would make much sense for me to sit here and discuss the legality of the occupation. I would rather defer to UN Security Council Resolution 497 (December 17, 1981), which condemned Israel’s decision to “impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights” as “null and void and without international legal effect.” The acquisition of territory by force goes against the very principles of the UN Charter and international law. But hey, it's just the UN, right? It's interesting how pro-Israelis site the UN as one of their reasons to exist, but disregard this resolution as well as 237, 252, 446, 1559, and the other SIXTY-odd ones they are in violation of.

Recently, Defense Minister Amir Peretz has suggested that Israel begin negotiations with Syria. On May 7, National Security Council Chairmen Ilan Mizrahi said that “Syria’s call for dialogue with Israel is authentic.” This statement was met with some reluctance from the Israeli government.

Well, look at the International Crisis Group’s April 10, 2007 report, particularly the sentence that relates directly to lingering security concerns you have with Syria: “Officials in Damascus provided their clearest indication to date both that they would resume negotiations without any precondition and that the country’s regional posture and relationship with Hamas, Hizbullah and Iran inevitably would change following a peace deal."

Hm, I wonder what Iraq, Lebanon, and Gaza and the West Bank would look like had they taken them up on their offer. This leads to the obvious question, if Israel wants peace for itself then why not promote the peace of the territories surrounding it and give up land that they are unjustly occupying?

Let the comments and replies roll in. I can't see myself replying because I know what this is going to be become: "Ya, but Oslo...", "Don't forget that in '67...", "But during the Ottoman Empire they.." And so on and so forth...My entry was trying to shed light on the alternative side. I am not interested in debating the Arab-Israeli conflict here.


I know I haven't convinced most people of anything, but at least they know that their arguments can and will be contested.

Also, I know that somehow I pissed off members from both communities with this post. Never fails. What else is new?

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

'The Michigan Difference'

Last week, someone at work asked me what I did at the University of Michigan. She wanted to know if I joined any 'clubs.'


Where to begin...? In the instant she asked me, I had flashbacks of meetings at the Union, in MSA Chambers, and every square inch of campus. I thought of the Diag, the protests, the campus politics, the Daily (ohhhh, the Daily :), the friction, the experiences, the friendships, the elections, the administration, those that thought they were much more important than they were, those that thought I was much more important than I was, Rick's!, the Bell Tower, the Big House, the ASA office, the Dopp 'Campus Day' -- the memories are endless.

Summarizing my Michigan experience is close to impossible. I have no idea how I will ever explain to anyone the experiences I had, the people I met, the memories I made, the lessons I learned, and most of all, the friendships I made.

At Michigan, you will indeed find 'the leaders and best'. Some find that to be an elitist statement. Eh, tough shit. Michigan is a breeding ground for leadership, excellence, and philanthropy. It provides its' students with the top programs in every facet of college life -- whether it is within the realms of academia or athletics. I know this is a rather bold statement, but I truly believe that Michigan offers the best undergraduate college experience in the country. I know I haven't been to every other college, I know the weather isn't as beautiful as that of UCLA, and I know that some programs may be ranked higher than Michigan's, but the sum of all of Michigan's parts is greater than any one institution. No where in the country will you find an athletic program as thriving as Michigan's, yet still find that every department and college ranks within the top 10. Not to mention, the activism on campus is intriguing. Not always logical, but intriguing.

I stopped daydreaming and realized that she was awkwardly staring at me waiting for me to answer her question. I smiled and said, "I was lucky enough to experience a little bit of everything."

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The devil may wear Prada, but he also shops at Wal-Mart

I am proud to say that I have spent a total of $30 at Wal-Mart. Some of you think that's $30 too much, while others are probably wondering why this is an issue to begin with. As a Googler, whose company's motto is "Don't Be Evil", I have qualms with the way Wal-Mart is run. The problems I have with this retail monster stem from it's irresponsibility to the American people and economy. Interestingly, Wal-Mart began as a company of strict American nationalism; it also began as a “Red” corporation to the extreme, whose political contributions in 2000 and 2004 went exclusively to George W. Bush and his party. Now, I am not pointing any fingers due to this -- many of you know why -- but rather due to their hypocrisy. The very company that claims nationalism and patriotism is the same one whose imports from China led to the loss of nearly 200,000 U.S. jobs from 2001-2006. The U.S. trade deficit with China reached a whopping $233 billion last year, and imports for Wal-Mart alone accounted for $27 billion - 11 percent of that total (source here). Make up your mind, Wal-Mart. You sound like the Bush Administration; you are as American as can be...until someone buys you out.

There are entire books and websites on how evil Wal-Mart is so I won't ramble off too many more facts. I wanted to include this paragraph though: According to, the average take-home pay of an American Wal-Mart employee is under $250 a week; the minimum wage pay scale places employees with families below the poverty line. The company is staunchly anti-union, and Wal-Mart employees make 25% less than their unionized counterparts after two years on the job. 85% of the stores' merchandise is made overseas, often in Third World sweatshops.

As many of you know, I am a supporter of capitalism. I understand that while some of the things that Wal-Mart are not illegal, there is a responsibility that they are not fulfilling. Driving small shops out of business is an effect of capitalism. However, once you drive their owners and employees out of business and force them to sweep your floors, then you better give them full time employment opportunities and benefits. Wal-Mart provides one of the nation's lowest full time opportunity rates in the country, yet employs 1.2 MILLION Americans. That's a lot of Americans who aren't working full time simply because Wal-Mart won't let them.

I am proud to say that I drive a couple blocks past Wal-Mart to shop at Target for my daily essentials. I, personally, don't mind paying a few extra dollars per checkout for a better experience and moral conscience.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Dearborn & Beyond

(Arab-American National Museum in Dearborn)

I moved to Dearborn, Michigan from Lebanon when I was two years old.


It's a culture I cannot explain. It is not the authentic Arab culture. It's definitely not 'Little Lebanon' as some people call it. It is simply 'Dearborn'. With the highest concentration of Arabs outside of the Middle East, it makes for quite a unique site. The awnings are written in beautiful Arabic calligraphy. Amazing food is served in restaurants that have 'borrowed' the names of their influences from across the Atlantic. Many immigrants found themselves settling in Dearborn during the auto industry's boom. The wave of immigration grew, but as it grew, so did it's racism. Henry Ford and Mayor Hubbard led half-successful campaigns to 'Keep Dearborn Clean', a slogan that has often referred to keeping the Arabs and Blacks out. I still wouldn't recommend Driving While Black in Dearborn, though. Ford and Hubbard have left a legacy. Anyway, a historically racist city is now dominated with Arab residents that contribute to a booming economy. Arabs kept Dearborn on the map when the auto industry begin to fizzle. All these things are true, but there are more truths to Dearborn.

(As reported by the Wall Street Journal, this picture is a glimpse of the 500,000 people that rallied in Dearborn when Israel was viciously bombarding Lebanon with illegal cluster bombs last summer)

I have a hard time deciding whether or not Dearborn is a subculture of American society or a counter-culture. While I am not sure which is true, I know that it is a culture I don't want to be a part of. I know what many of you are thinking: "She thinks she is better than Dearborn." I am not better than Dearborn. It has contributed to my upbringing and has been my home. However, it is a city that frustrates me. I don't feel like the general population in Dearborn aspires for something outside of the very vacuum it operates in. That is not to say that this applies to everyone. Some of the most impressive people I have ever met are from Dearborn. Aspects of Dearborn, however, are disappointing -- partly because I set my standards for Arab-Americans so high, and partly because I feel that a sense of complacency has infected it's residents.

Many of the immigrants that arrived in Dearborn during the 1980's had little English speaking skills and were either uneducated or had degrees that were worthless here in the States without proper language skills. Nonetheless, Arab immigrants hauled ass, opened up shop, and helped create a city with the most gas stations, pizzerias, and sub shops per capita. I mean, that's not a real statistic, but I wouldn't be surprised. Arabs are/were business oriented, and often came here with nothing and became successful. So what is so disappointing about all this? The fact that the children of these immigrants don't aspire to take it to the next level. They have a found a comfort zone, and most aren't willing to pursue education or job opportunity outside of Dearborn. I think the definition of success in Dearborn hasn't changed and that's a problem. When the immigrants came, success meant supporting your family and establishing a home in a foreign country where you knew no one and had nothing. I guess the definition of success has changed in some ways. Now, 'success' for my generation is buying a bigger home (maybe even in Dearborn Heights, oooh), a cooler car, and the newest Nextel. Saying these things is difficult for me because I am very passionate about the Arab-American community. I think cities like Dearborn are harmful for ethnic groups because it doesn't force them to wander outside of their comfort zone and experience new people and things. Undoubtedly, Arabs in Dearborn are doing well for themselves and their entrepreneurship is interesting, but there is so much more that no one is exploring. Many of the people I meet in Dearborn have no interest to visit Royal Oak, let alone Tanzania, Africa ( Point being: Life may be good for people in Dearborn, but there is a whole world out there, and I am not sure most of them care.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Diplomacy & Dialogue Are Out

I watched 'Hairspray' with a friend from work tonight. As many of you know, I am not much of a movie-watcher. I find them to be quite disappointing, but this movie was different. I enjoyed it a lot, and it made me think. It reminded me of a friend that has an 'intense' passion for musical theater. One day I am going to watch her perform in New York.

The movie also reminded me of a blog entry I wrote awhile ago. It's very obvious that when I wrote this entry I had a lot of built up anger and frustration regarding race relations in the United States. I am not sure that has changed, but I find myself handling my frustration about racism in a different way. It's one thing to bitch and moan amongst a group of people that share your sentiments about the way things should be. It's another thing to make yourself vulnerable in situations where people may not understand your perspective and background. As a person of color, I used to get angry when people were ignorant of my identity as an Arab-American. I realize, now, that anger only causes more ignorance. If we scare away the very people that don't understand us, then we should expect racism and ignorance to continue. The burden is upon each individual to have the conversations that are difficult with the people that understand them the least. People shouldn't be afraid to ask me or anyone that is 'different' about culture, food, identity, geography, hair texture, hijab, religion, etc.

I was talking to a friend after Don Imus got fired. We had a very interesting conversation regarding the outcome of the entire spectacle. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson claimed 'victory'. I laugh at their definition of victory. When a co-worker does not fear getting fired for asking me about my Arab heritage, when people aren't too scared to ask Black people about their culture, when Americans aren't reluctant to engage in meaningful conversation about sensitive subjects -- once all those things happen, then we can claim 'victory.' Firing one White man for what other people may think does not solve any problems. I am waiting for a intimate and honest conversation regarding why those remarks were offensive to begin with. (Also, I am waiting for someone to ask for Al Sharpton to step down from whatever position he doesn't have. His previous homophobic and racist comments offend me just as much as Imus did: “White folks was in caves while we was building empires ... We taught philosophy and astrology and mathematics before Socrates and them Greek homos ever got around to it.”) Hm, 'homos' and and 'white folks' in 'caves'. It's a wonder why we can't have real dialogue about any of these issues. People are either too pissed to answer questions or too scared to ask them. Clearly the only way to make people understand is to protest, yell, and wreak havoc, right? Diplomacy is over rated, and divisive exclusion and rejection of dialogue is in. My, how helpful this has been for people to understand us.

But shit, what do I know? I am just as racist and elitist as the rest of them.