August 28, 2013
Dear Mr. President:
I want to share with you how I feel . . .
I feel like a girl whose dreams have been shattered. I feel betrayed by a system that I believed in so strongly. I feel confused because I do not know what to believe anymore. I feel angry that I dedicated my life to the study and practice of a system and rule of law that has now disappointed me. But most important, I feel heartbroken over the turn of events involving Syria.
I could have studied math; I was great at it. My brother says math would never have let me down. Two plus two will always equal four. Period. End of story. But in my junior year of high school I developed a love and passion for history, government and law. I became fascinated by our nation’s history, by the brilliance of our government, and by the American notion of justice. I am not sure at what point I shifted gears completely, but I moved away from the logic of math, and toward the subjective beauty of government and law. I decided that I would become the first Syrian-American president, or a senator at the very least. I would dedicate my life to contributing to the brilliant history of our nation.
On that note, I would like to share two of the proudest moments of my life with you. These moments involved exercising my right to vote. A right that I cherished so deeply; one because it is a right that women have not even had for 100 years in this country, and two because it is a right that symbolizes the sacrifice that my grandparents and parents made when moving to this country so that I could have every opportunity that this world has to offer.
I barely turned 18 years old when I registered to vote. I could feel my smile stretched across my face as I filled out the voter registration form. And I wanted to shout it out to the world, “I am a registered voter!” I was so excited for what the future had in store for me. I felt so powerful. It may seem silly to others – “your vote doesn’t count” is what I am often told – but that vote counts to me. I vote because I can. I vote because I have the privilege to do so.
My second, and perhaps most proud moment of the two, was when I was 20 years old. It was the moment when I checked off the box for you, Mr. President, on my first presidential ballot. I cast my first vote ever for president of the United States of America and that vote was for a young man with a vision for change. That man was Senator Barrack Hussein Obama. And what a moment that was. There was so much emotion and meaning behind that vote. There was personal satisfaction to exercise a right that I looked forward to for years, a right that less than 100 years ago a woman would not be entitled to. And then there was the social and historical significance – my first vote was for our first African American president. Wow. The fact that you were on the ballot, when less than 50 years before that our country remained segregated and a black man could never dream of seeing a black president during his lifetime, had such profound meaning to me. How far our country had come at that point was amazing, and how much more we could progress seemed so attainable and real. I felt empowered by casting my vote for you. It meant that I could do whatever I wanted. I was not handicapped by my gender. I was not handicapped by my ethnicity. I have no handicaps. Only potential.
When you were elected president, I cried. When you gave your inaugural speech I skipped work to watch. I beamed with pride as I watched from my couch. Pride for you, pride for my country, pride for myself and pride for my vote. I was so proud to be an American in that moment.
Let’s fast forward four years. The state of the world had changed. I was beginning to lose hope in politics but I continued to believe in our system. There were uprisings in the Middle East, America seemed more divided than ever, and yet I still believed that the great American system would get us through it all, and that somehow good would prevail.
I am a Syrian-American. Perhaps there is a reason that Syrian comes first. Syria was my top priority when I cast my second vote for president. It seemed like a war in Syria might be inevitable but I still voted. I still exercised that right that I believed in so deeply. I cast my second vote for president, again, for you Mr. President. And with great pride and joy like the first time. This time I was relieved when you won. I felt that Syria might be safe. I was reassured that my Syrian family had hope for a brighter tomorrow, a tomorrow free of Western intervention and free of rebel terror. I felt that there was still a chance for reason and logic to prevail over covert agendas. I believed in you and in your goodness as a fellow human being.
Less than one year later my dreams are shattered. I feel jaded and ashamed of myself. The president whom I so proudly voted for five years ago is now within hours of approving a military attack on my homeland of Syria. How ironic is it that my most proud moment is now my most regretted moment of my life? I want to believe in you, Mr. President. I want to believe in your goodness. I want to believe that you would not take my country, America, into a war against my country, Syria, based on conjecture or a hidden agenda. I want so badly to believe in your goodness as a human being. I want to continue to believe in you as I did when I cast my first vote for you. But I can’t. I want to believe in this system, but I can’t. I want to believe in American law, the American constitution and the American system of justice, but I can’t. After all, how can I believe in any of it when my own leaders do not enforce it?
Now I’m left feeling confused. Now I am left wondering how I can continue my work as a lawyer who has sworn to uphold the constitution of this land, when I have been so deeply let down by my leaders who have failed to abide by that very constitution? How can I continue on this course when my identity and my beliefs have come to be only the unrealistic expectations of a young and naive girl?
Mr. President, I suspect this letter may never reach your hands. And even if it does reach your hands I know it will not change your mind. But if you do read this, Mr. President, please understand the mental struggle of the person behind this letter – an identity torn apart by recent events. I was once an eager and excited member of American society who was prepared to devote her entire life to the American system of justice and who had aspirations to one day follow in your foot steps. I am now a young woman who has been let down by the very institution that she admired and who no longer knows what to believe or whom she should become.
Please rethink your decision to attack Syria. Please at least adhere to our great constitution. Please conduct a full investigation before taking action that will kill countless more innocent civilians and further destroy a land rich in history. Please keep America out of Syria.