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Fortunate to be living in America

I Am Wide Awake

I’m having a casual conversation with a friend who lives in Boston, who years ago, just like me, came to America from Beirut, Lebanon, where we were both born. Occasionally we reminisce about how we grew up there, went to school, and as we got older, started going to the movies, bars, restaurants and enjoyed delicious meals prepared by the great chefs of Beirut. 

The hummus, the falafels, couscous with toasted almonds, grilled salmon with vegetables and multitudes of pastries, all of them would make anyone yearn for more. Yes, those were exotic times that carried us back to memories of the place gracefully named “The Paris of the Mediterranean.”

But, regardless of how both my friend and I go on and on about the beauty and exoticism of our birthplace, our conversation finally is interrupted by silence. Suddenly, we find ourselves completely speechless. We seem both lost and totally immersed and absorbed in a whole new thought. And after a stillness, we both repeat the same thought as if we were echoing each other, by saying, “But isn’t it wonderful and amazing that we ended up here in America, instead of being in Beirut?” 

Then, we proceed to complete each other’s sentences, speaking with such conviction that we can both almost ignore our past and truly admit that we are lucky to be  members of a whole new society and country, where life has been a true blessing. And we both solemnly agree and accept the fact that America saved us. My friend concludes the conversation by saying, “We would’ve been dead if we had stayed in Beirut.” My friend’s final remark might’ve been unnecessarily tragic, but who can say what the past could have been?

Strangely, this conversation is taking place at a time when America is going through totally unexpected and turbulent times. Nothing about America since my friend and myself came here is the same anymore. Sometimes it feels like America has turned herself upside down. And the causes and challenges are so overwhelming that it seems that America will never return to her past. 

Democracy and the rule of the land seems suddenly hijacked by ultra-conservative forces that doesn’t appear to value democracy or what the country achieved by endorsing equal rights, health benefits, women’s rights and equality among all races. 

And now, on top of the political challenges, here comes a pandemic that is deadly and destructive. So far it has claimed thousands of lives, grandpas, grandmas, uncles, sisters and brothers. Victims include people who actually are the ones who support the infected and help them heal. First responders, nurses, polics officers, doctors — no one is safe from this pandemic. 

Between the pandemic and the political state of the country, I feel troubled and (should I admit?) clueless. What happened? What went wrong? And as I look for answers, all I see is how certain politicians minimize the complexities of the tragedy to enhance their  personal or political standing, ignoring the advice given by medical professionals. These are rock-hard times. 

There’s no question that the downturn of the economy, the unemployment and fear of additional deaths predicted by the experts paint a gloomy picture of years to come. Yet, still, as we continued our conversation, both me and my friend, after some reflection, admitted that we are happier “here in America” than “there in Beirut.”

Of course, like all of us, we are impatiently waiting for the medical professionals to find a cure for this pandemic, and trust that they will. That gives my friend and me hope for the future. 

In the end, we are happy to be here because in this country there is immense optimism. Sure, this whole period of distancing and being trapped in our houses for so long is becoming bothersome. But the passionate love and extraordinary optimism of everyday people, neighbors and colleagues, companies sharing food, students sharing their love with each other is extremely inspiring. 

And that’s exactly what makes me feel fortunate to be living in America. 


Varoujan Froundjian is a graphic designer, Photoshop artist, writer, cartoonist, information technology and wine expert. He can be reached at varoujanfroundjian@gmail.com

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