Massachusetts, United States- “You got something from The White House,” my mom said to me in the traditional Palestinian-Arabic accent. “Here, open it.” Checking the envelope, I do in fact see the address of the White House, followed by “Ms. Laila Sadeddin.” What could the White House possibly want from me? I carefully open the envelope, as thoughts race through my head. The letter is from Mr. President- Barack Obama himself, thanking me for writing to him about my concern regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and my perspective, and how he is committed to a “sustained diplomatic effort to promote peace in the region.” I read on further, as he goes on to state how he is dedicated to achieving a secure and lasting peace not only for the Israelis and Palestinians themselves, but for the neighboring countries and the United States of America. Problem is, I’ve never written to him or the White House before.
Now, throughout my high school career and into my college career, I’ve been the spokesperson for Palestine and her politics. My classmates, teachers, and even strangers have always been interested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and I’ve always been the one to instigate. I’ve heard it all- people siding with Palestine, people siding with Israel, and people who just want peace. But sometimes, I couldn’t help but just think- how have they become so interested, and just what are they basing their opinions on?
Me? My opinions are not based on Fox News. Nor are they based on CNN, MSNBC, or any other media outlet. My opinions are based on my culture, my heritage, my traditions, my ancestors, my land, and my blood- my Palestinian blood. They’re based on my travels, my encounters, and my experiences. I’ve traveled to and from Palestine several times, and for people to tell me how I should feel, how I should think, is out of the question. I have always made the argument that I have the “best” of both worlds- I’m Palestinian, but also American. And I carry both citizenships.
But, for once, I’m not here to discuss politics, nor am I writing to tell people how or what to think. I’m here to write about the letter I have received from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The President thanks me for “writing” to him. But I do not recall physically writing out a letter, placing it into an envelope, stamping it, and sending it off. I don’t think I’ve ever done that, and frankly never plan to. It got me thinking- where did the President, or at least his staff members, hear of my dire interest in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Why did he write to me, of all people?
Yet none of that really mattered at the end of the day. It hit me. My voice, a voice of the voiceless, a voice of the thousands who fight with the resistance and resilience that is in every Palestinian’s blood all around the world, has reached Washington. How it has reached- through Twitter, through Facebook, through my research, articles, and blogs I’ve read and commented on- didn’t matter, and it was just water under the bridge. I’m being listened to. My voice, the voice of my family, my friends, my brethren and the voice of the unrepresented and ignored, has gone to Congress. Clearly the government is looking for and (somewhat) listening to people like me.
Being a Palestinian in America isn’t easy. Wearing my kuffiyeh on cold days and showing off my Palestinian flag bracelet every day has caused me to receive comments from people of different backgrounds. Whether or not I agreed with said comments wasn’t what I was trying to achieve. I was aiming for the “Yes. You see? I’m Palestinian. And I’m not afraid to show it.” This is what makes me walk with my head held high; with the dignity and resistance I, and every other Palestinian, was born with. Clearly the government is looking for and (somewhat) listening to people like me. Where it’ll take me, who knows? Either way, I know I was heard. And all I know now is that this will only have me speaking much, much louder.
What matters now is that our cause isn’t going unnoticed, and never will. People are looking out for youth like us. Where this letter will take me, who knows? Either way, someone has received the message I was trying to get out. And all I know now is that this will only have me speaking much, much louder.
Laila is a Palestinian-American living in Massachusetts. A college student with a passion for politics and her country, she is studying History with a minor in International Relation and Education, and hopes to one day teach the students of the world what it truly means to never forget where they came from. Laila tweets here.