Sunday, June 2, 2013

The lost generation of Libya

Not old enough to retire, not young enough to start all over.  Damn if
we do, damn if we don't; we are the bridge between the old and the new
and neither is tolerant of our tainted ways.  We continue to be the
ghosts of our forebearers and the fuel for generations to come  We are
seeing the specters of the past and the surety of our present.  We wish
to surrender but there is no victor in sight, we are dissected by our
roots in Libya and the foliage-ladden branches that have sprouted

We were raised in a glass castle with the dying whispers of what could
have been.  We have a taste of our bitter-sweet waning dawn and the
back breaking struggle to survive and ultimatly escape our nightly cycle of
rebirth to finally find Nirvana  We are like the dafodils that endured
the harsh winter and managed to sprout just to be harvested for the
sole purpose of decoration.

We are the lost generation of Libyans who were born at the brink of
gadaffi's evil scheme, we are the ones who, in tow to their parents,
left Libya old enough to remember but not young enough to embrace the
new.  We are treated as foreigner when we go to Libya because of our
apparent bewilderment just to be called prehistorics when we make it a
point to stick to the Libyan language clear of any "yeah", "ok", and
"no"...the slang has changed and we did not get the memo.
We are treated like exotic samples by our new compatriots because of
our "gorgeous olive skin not prone to burn in the sun" and the ever
slight and misleading accent that is not quiet "Arabe", for those in
the know, not quiet "French", not quiet "Greek" but rather an amalgam
and trail of our complicated lives.  I had a friend, once, who told me
in a most sincere way and with no malignant sentiments "you immigrants
(forgetting his own roots) are becoming harder to distinguish with all
this globalization and all...".  I had to laugh and supress my hurt
feelings of having been lumped within that category, with a simple
shake of the head and a "didn't you know 'we' set the stage to
globalization...our autocrates invented diaspora and america's brain-drains
are fueling its progenitors" ... I don't think my friend got the
metaphors or my intended rebuff to his 'redneck' and egoistic self.

Such is our lives. We lived with and loved our parents who never
settled because "sayoor el ghareeb eblada" (Libyan proverb and exiles'
living motto meaning "the destiny of a stranger is his country") but
yet we grew up drinking the ethos of a host country for which we pledge
allegiance despite its unmeant but nevertheless discouraging efforts to
our assimilation...a complex oxymoron of pull and push.

Friday, May 31, 2013

The melting pot of oil and water

"Black, White, Yellow, and Red" this was my answer when the Anthropology professor asked the freshmen class to name the human races. 
The class did not laugh but my anthropology professor laughed so hard that his tears were creating rivers on his face amidst our drowned looks . 
"Wrong" he yelled, "African American, White, Asian, and American Indian is the correct answer".
I had the good sense not to correct the subject expert but my humble mind labored over my public humiliation for over two decades and I can yet to differentiate our answers although my maturity and seasoned American way has shed some light on the absurdity of the moment.
Maybe, my politically correct professor was not laughing at my answer but rather at my uncensored and honest reply uninhibited by the affirmative action folks who will eventually get under my skin as well. 
I was a freshly arrived foreign student and this affinity to submit to the order of the day was yet to be instilled.
In the Muslim world, where I come from, we say that "we are all the slaves of God" and yet in our colloquial language we refer to dark skinned individuals by the word "slaves" even though we are not much lighter than them and we share many of their features...hypocrisy at its best or is it human nature and the desire to be correct, under threat? 
Think about it. I have and I am tempted to blame our human nature and our willingness to conform.  Isn't that what the German people did under Hitler?  Isn't that what Obama, our black president, raised by a white woman, did when he lost his negro to be elected? Does that make it correct? Are we losing our humanity in an effort to gloss the obvious and benefit from our membership?
My overly friendly neighbors are welcoming to us and yet their truck is adorned with the confederate flag.  Our black friends are friendly to us and yet we don't get invited to their summer camps because "it is a Christian gathering".  We train our teachers about diversity and yet the superintended of our school explains "the relationship between a Muslim and Islam" like being "an American and a Christian". 
The examples abound and the solution is obvious but people will continue dancing to the beat of the moment and to the unfulfilled rewards of the equality mirage which we wholeheartedly contradict.
It is a sad day when I hear of more labels popping out and people being divided by this invisible line that is supposedly meant to bring them together.  I asked a friend of mine if a mutual friend of ours was Christian; she said "No, she is Catholic".  I was surprised at her answer but I am glad I did not brag about my religion because, only yesterday, the Shia and Sunni factions of Islam are dividing Syria and both sides are killing their fellow Muslims.  A close look at any religion will prove futile to any warring factions because all religions subscribe to peace and yet the young desperate men continue to bend under the will of powerful leaders and to find release for their suppressed testosterone...
People are turning against each other and they are hard pressed to offer forgiveness for the price of war, instead, someone out there, usually a third party, is getting rich and their goals are being served. 
In this country, it is not yet a raging war and the devil is busy with easier and more lucrative markets overseas but I sense it and it is coming in my children's life time when they will take refuge from their neighbors or even be moved to concentration camps for their likes because they don't really belong; they really aren't Black, White, Yellow, or Red, and they might still profess to the Islamic religion.  The federal ethnicity categories are expanding but they are yet to comprise all the races as I see it and "other" is usually my choice unless I am made to abide to my Federal classification of White.  I may be White on paper but we do not fit the White classification of the general public nor ours and yet we submit, or should we rather be grateful, to Uncle Sam's blindness.  Why do we even need this classification other then to further bleed and enlarge the schism.
I say an African American man is a black man if his skin is as rich as mahogany and he is proud of his fore-bearers.  I say an American Indian is red if his skin is the color of the red dirt that was soaked in his ancestors' blood.  I say an Asian American is Yellow if his eyes are slanted like a beautiful crescent shining over us.  I say a White is White if the fruits of his labor propelled us into the industrial revolution.  I say we are all Americans if our combined contributions are greater than our individual offerings and if we pledge allegiance to this country above any other while being human, sincere, raw and yet gentle like we were meant by the creator.
I say enough bigotry and politics because it is not bringing us together but rather splitting us like running a finger through a spider web.  The spider and our humanity will keep mending the fence but sooner or later the spider will run out of thread and unless the pointing finger is severed, humanity will be lost.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Streams of memories

I was asked this last Friday to talk about my memories in Libya, I was asked to open the pandora box.  I was not prepared for this simple and yet obvious question and my answers are eating at me, my love for Libya is chiding me.  My internal shame was amplified by the supernatural desire that brought out all the bad memories and not enough of the good ones.  I am wondering why, why was I so weak to bend my desire to frame Libya in the best of light and make for a joyful interview?  Why did I whimper and let the dark side take over!  WHY?!?!?!?!!! I have many memories and now that I have regained my composure, I see them exiting in an orderly file, the good and the bad, with no feeling of hate towards a regime that abruptly came to an end but is yet dominating the Libyan ethos.

I remember running through the shallow Mediterranean waters. I remember teasing the gentle waves and eluding them under their weight. I remember basking in the evening sun and running barefoot, on scalding hot sand, to reach the refuge of the mesmerizing water.  I remember laughing with not a care in the world.  I remember building sand castles for hours on end and then sit and watch them gracefully disappear like the sun in the horizon.  I remember playing hide and seek with my 24 carat gold jewelry in the sand and I remember being very generous.

I remember being dropped off by the driver with my teenage cousins, at Benghazi's sailing club.  I remember the abundance of food sent with us; enough to feed my brothers' basketball team.  I remember the watermelon bobbing in the water, within the protection of our sand castle, and the chicken drumsticks and potato stews always made better by the ever present sand.  I remember forgetting to bring a knife for the watermelon, a usual occurrence that brought delight to our hearts.  I remember the fruit's loud crack on a favorite rock and I remember being among the elite group of youngsters who were allowed to dig-in a few minutes before the onslaught of the other spoons, driven by excited hands, in the red sweet flesh of our maimed watermelon.  I remember having those daydreams as I was reading "The lord of the Flies"; I was always Simon and never the wicked Ralph.  I remember being rinsed in the garden, under the canopy of jasmine, with the garden hose; I remember the deluge of sand streaming out of my hair and I remember the taste of that well-water of which I couldn't get enough. I remember marvelling at how brown my skin had gotten.

I remember walking hand in hand with my dad through the Greek ruins of Cyrenaica captivated by his description of the Greek Gods and their glory.  I remember seeing the ocean in the distance and feeling the sand, riding the seabreeze, caressing my ankles.  I remember walking into Zeus' temple and being surrounded by enormous pillars, while twirling, with my arms outstretched, on mosaic floors thousands of years old.  I remember diverting my vision from the pale blue skies to be met by a row of headless stone nymphs, comforted only by the trickle of water still murmuring their songs, in centuries old aqueducts.

I remember being at the sailing club, in the shower areas, on my knees, listening to soothing words from an adult male; I don't remember his face, he did not touch me, I was off limit, but I was fascinated and not afraid.

I remember the throbbing pulses under my firm grip; I remember the final bleating and the knife being drawn in one swift and agile movement.  I remember the warm blood gushing on my fingers like a spring stream kicking into action for the last time.  I remember jolting back to reality when the pulse is no more and the blood is pooling by my feet. I remember the lamb's glossy eyes looking into nothing; I remember licking my dish clean from the BBQ sauce.

I remember driving with my sister and seeing the bodies, still jerking, hanging from the ropes; they
were Benghazi's boys, they were brave and they were caught but not my teenage brothers.  I remember my mom pacing in our vast back yard, listening for running footsteps and weighing in her options.  I remember her furtively leading them to my uncle's basement, a rarity then, as they increased in numbers in our sanctuary.  I remember the sirens and the loud knocking on our door, I remember my mom taking her time and composing herself, and I remember hiding behind this incredibly strong woman and amazing actress while she blatantly lied to the security forces about the rogue youth "destroying our revolutionary dawn".  I remember my brothers and their friends, barely men, huddled in the dark basement.  I remember being but an invisible shadow to my mom, too afraid to leave her and she all too conscience of my presence. 

I remember the sea of boxes littering our veranda after they had 'cleaned up', as in nationalized, my dad's empire.  I remember our Egyptian help, men and women, crying in the far fetches of our home.  I remember seeing my dad, in his real form, for the last time, and my mom's fierce eyes too proud to show grief. (see 'The shattering of dreams' for full story)

I remember Naima on her wedding night; I remember her jolly face and misunderstood beatification.  I remember the last drawn blood of the evening to great fanfare and personal heartbreak.  I remember her tears drawing a line in my conscience and the jasmine's tiny white flowers contrasting with a bleak scene.  I remember the grasping for air as if I was next, I remember the chorus of ululations fueling my fears. (see 'The breaking of glass' for full story)

I remember sitting in a miniscule apartment, in Greece, fighting to take it all in, claustrophobic, and watching my dad's marbled face as he was serenaded by Pavarotti’s strong voice in 'La Boheme'.  I remember getting sick flying economy class for the first time; I remember the kindness of strangers.  I remember the strange world we had landed in, I remember the confusion of a young mind, I remember missing my family now taking refuge in other countries.

I remember getting on the private medical airplane, leaving my 18 year old brother Oussama in Greece, alone to battle his monsters while in the safe confines of our dreary apartment, away from gadafi's reaches.  I remember them resuscitating my dad so that he may take his last breath in Benghazi.  I remember my dad passing away a week later and Oussama calling to check on 'daddy' just to be told, by a stranger, that his dad had lost his battle with cancer.  I remember my dad's last words "Hala and Oussama" and the doors they opened for me.  I remember my mom using those same words when pressured to stay back in Libya and raise the girl there.  I remember her finishing up her mandatory 40 days of grieving in Greece alone and happy to send me off to school every day.  I remember the phone calls from a then married brother, in the States, shaming my mom for her sacrifice while disregarding a dead man's wish.

I remember my mom teaching herself how to read and write, in that same apartment, away from her busy and worthy life in Benghazi.  I remember waking up at night and finding her writing the Arabic alphabet and sounding it out; I was often lulled back to sleep on the sound of the pencil grinding under her firm hand threatening to succumb under the pressure.

I remember getting the long awaited phone call from the US embassy informing me that my student visa was ready.  I remember my mom, feeling vindicated for her 'sins', standing with Oussama, looking at me with a pride she had not felt since 1978.  I remember Oussama congratulating me on what he had failed to achieve.

I remember being sent to that same stranger of a brother to pursue my education in the US, I remember the struggle to adjust to having a brother after 19 years of loneliness.  I remember my being beat for having boys as my friends. I remember missing my mom and suppressing my yearning for the lost freedom and independence that came with trust.  I remember leaving, without farewells, to go live with another brother with whom I became more humble to avoid my disastrous stay with the elder.

I remember not knowing how to tie my shoes at the age of 19; my mom had assumed the role of maid.  I remember my American sister-in-law, kindly showing me how to "loop the laces, hold them tight, and pull".  I remember my accomplices and my heartbreaking 'crimes'.

I remember graduating with honors in record time and wishing for a mother's embrace.  I remember allowing myself to truly fall in love because he was Libyan.  I remember the closing of a chapter and a wedding void of my mom.  I remember my first paycheck at $4 an hour and I remember the NSF notices from the bank.  I remember the half-emptied bottle and my saving grace; the crystal clear image of my mom waving in my stupor.  I remember the sighting of a light at the end of my tunnel...

I remember no more because I now live the moment and challenge it to last; it is balsam to my wounds and I am tired of licking them.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The shattering of dreams

I had lived in a glass castle for the first 8 years of my life but that too was shattered on an unforgettable night in Paris.  It was August 1978, the sly gaddafi had been leading Libya for 8 years consolidating his powers, silencing his rivals, infiltrating the Libyan society with his minions and thugs, and waiting to seize the moment.  We were in route back to Benghazi, Libya, from the States.  We had stopped in Paris, to wrap up our vacation with a few well placed purchases from the Champ Elysee.  I was nestled between my parents in an upscale restaurant when my dad had gotten the notice.  My usually undenied requests to stay longer were brushed aside and we were homeward bound the next day.  Gaddafi had nationalized my Dad's company and, overnight, my Dad had lost an empire built over thirty long years and two bankruptcies.  I don't remember the trip back to our house, I am sure it was quick, silent, and nerve racking to my Father.    Benghazi had just gotten a visit from the southern winds laden with the Sahara's finest brown sand.  The winds were still rumbling and teasing the already brown and dried out leaves on the huge eucalyptus trees lining up our street.  We drove into our neighborhood of grandiose homes still defiantly standing, although beaten, by the sand storm and its menacing grinding sand.
I remember pulling up to a cordoned street, our street.  It was eerily quiet and dark, the orchestra of wild birds that greeted people to our home was silent.  The sand storm had painted everything brown; the army trucks, their camouflaged canopy, and the green clad soldiers stood out as the only colorful objects in a brown painting.  Our street was unusually deserted, not a neighbor in sight, not a single servant welcoming us home, not a stray dog barking wildly, no feral cats begging for food.  I stepped out of the car and my black shiny shoes sank in a layer of dust licking at my already brown ruffled pants.  I remember sneezing and inhaling a lungful of air tainted with the desert sand still freshly laid on everything in sight.  The commotion of the soldiers was whipping out its own mini sand storm; my eyes were stinging but the tear drop I felt was no mine; it was my dad's.  He was towering over me with a forced smile telling me to walk straight on to my room and not to linger.  My Mom was standing next to me transfixed by the real meaning of the moment; her grasp on my hand was tight and cold defying the warm evening temperature of a late summer day.  My dad had disappeared and I proceeded by walking up the stairs to our vast veranda littered with boxes upon boxes of papers freshly unloaded from the trucks.  Some loose leaf papers were still fluttering, like injured birds, before being smothered to death by the soldiers' uncaring footsteps.  Our compound felt like a military base, it was buzzing with young revolutionaries clad to "wipe our likes from the face of this earth".  They were in frenzy under the spell of the loud speakers jutting from one of the trucks; Gaddafi's scathing voice was reverberating against the marble surfaces amplified by the eerie silence of nature.  The soldiers were in a frenzy of allegiance and their mocking eyes and insults were the final blow to my glass castle and my parents' dreams.  I was returning to a hostile takeover and the beginning of a nightmare that will last 40 years.  My dad was powerless, I was still clueless, my mom was defiant.  The next few days our house was filled with a stream of people, who had worked for my dad; some were crying, others left shaking their heads, and a few continued to make the pilgrimage over the next forty years, and even after my dad had passed away, to pay their respect to a truly amazing man, my dad; "he was a kind, just, and generous man" I was told.  I wanted to scream back that my dad is gone, he was only a shell of his former self but, as expected of me, I continued to smile while they etched these painful words in my subconscious. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

The breaking of glass

I was young, barely 7. What I lacked in wisdom, I made up for it by a photographic memory that still haunts me well into my middle ages.

There was a wedding, it was in August; the warm breeze of the evening was unusually crisp and it sent shivers through my slim frame.  I was standing on a balcony overlooking the distant Libyan seafront; I was scouting for the arrival of the groom.

The air was permeated by the sea breeze and the smell of exotic frankincense being burnt to ward off the bad spirits on this joyous occasion; Naima is getting married, "so young and voluptuous, her face looked like a full moon" they would often say.

I could also taste the smell of fresh blood, that of the lambs slaughtered earlier today to feed the throngs of women and children still trickling in, past midnight, to witness the highlight of the evening.  Shot guns were fired, the groom has arrived and I was going to miss him meeting the bride, for the first time, and leading her to what will become their bedroom at his parents' house.

I ran, I stretched my pace at the expense of my delicate dress; I heard it being torn at the seam as I extended my limbs but I still ran to see the happy couple being marched to their bedroom with great fanfare. The singing was reenergized, the whispers were more audible, the synchronized ululations were deafening, the groom was drunk (now I know), the bride was walking by his side with a shy smile evoking the image of the little girl, that she was, being led to a surprise.  I was at the top of the stairs, I had a bird's eye view of the little lamb being led to his sacrifice, they were walking towards me and their room immediately under the circular staircase...little did I know then.

The door shut, the jubilation took another turn and the decibel of the cacophony was at its greatest at the top of the stairs where I stood.  I was transfixed in place, I couldn't move, the party was raging below me but the strain on the old ladies' faces was palpable and the guns went silent; they were being loaded with one single shot.

They say that a man satisfies half his religious duties with marriage and, standing there, I was happy to know that Naima was participating in this glorious and divine duty.  Naima's family is poor but this fact was not lessening her role in this all important mission; I was waiting to see the transformation first hand.

The door opened, the groom walked out undeterred and crisp, the same way he had walked in.  There was no hallow around his head, he did not imbue any divine aura, but he did have in his hands a handkerchief, the one earlier in his pocket, now stained with red.  The stained cloth was nonchalantly passed to a waiting elder; she was expecting it.  I was straining to understand the significance of that white cloth; its appearance magically wiped off the strained faces and imbued them with cheer joy.  I was missing something; curiosity defeated my restrains and the tomboy in me saddled the balustrade and was propelled in the midst of a wave of married women into the bedroom.  I was suffocating, the room was unusually hot, and only the cold corner of the blocked wall kept me from escaping this inferno.  I heard the single shot fired in the air and it was, as if a signal, the indication of a new era for Naima, a much respected married woman now, and her husband.

She won't be buried tomorrow by noon, the single shot did clear the air after all and, I am sure her brothers are being congratulated as was her mom back at home.  I was not there witnessing this scenario but it was screaming at me from my memories and mingling with the cries and whimpers of the still young but now disheveled moon-faced bride.  Once again, I had a perfect view, at eye level, but this
time I stood there in horror barely able to breath and comprehend the complexity of the scene and the juxtaposition of pure joy to that of the uncontrollable sobs of a little girl whose walk to a surprise was shattered by the brutal robbing of her virginity.  I did not know that then but I knew, immediately, that I had just witnessed the slaughter of the last lamb that evening.

The air smelled of blood, cheap perfume, and raw sweat. Naima was laying in bed, her face was covered by perspiration and tears, her hair was in disarray, her eyes were shut refusing the reality of the moment.  Her body was shivering unable to keep up with the tremors of her sobs and yet unwilling to release the last breathe of the living. She was there but the life and laughter that usually inhabits her soul had vacated the premises, in a hurry.

 I could see many hands working in absolute proficiency to erase the savageness of what had transpired; they were, like scam artists, intent on sweeping the shards under the rug.  They say that “glass, once broken cannot be replaced” but my elders forgot to mention that, in good times, when it is shattered, it will be done in public and with complete disregard to the human within.  Some were making the bed, oblivious to the throbbing of a wounded heart within its folds, others were fanning and slapping the moon-shaped face, some were busy wiping the sweat and tears covering the distorted face, while others were busy clapping in tandem and accompanying a chorus of songs and laughter that cut through the warm air like a northern front.
If not for the tremors radiating from the body, I could have sworn it was a status of the Virgin Mary being prepared for a parade. A few kind hearts were propping the bride and drowning her in sugared water meant to invigorate her spirit while others were rearranging the hair and dotting it with freshly picked, innocently white and tiny, jasmine flowers.  The specks of trembling white flowers, juxtaposed to their black background, reminded me of sheep caught on a grey, stormy and thunderous evening, out in open unprotected and in clear sight of the howling wolves.

 I was lost in the moment, lost in interpretations, lost in my own glass castle.  Naima was going through a transformation and I wanted nothing to do with it; I am not getting married.  I slithered through the folds of robes; the door seemed far away, and yet so close.  I was making progress through the sea of matriarchs but I was also being rocked back and forth, back and forth the the rythm of their songs, as if by seismic motion.  Fear was closing in, hope was fading, the door was disappearing, and I was enclosed by darkness and propelled only by my saving grace and survival instinct. I screamed as I broke free and I welcomed the first breath of the sea breeze back up on the balcony.

I freed myself but not my friend who was duped into believing.  I lived on, embracing my tom boy more openly; I wanted to be the Sheppard not the lamb.  I never did make it to see Naima again.  The flood gates remain shut if not for the occasional leak such as this one and that too will be sealed tight.  I am to live with the memories and I am to carry this burden until I can look at the age-beaten face of my childhood bride without tasting the blood and feeling like the scam artists of that day because this is what has happened as I progressed through life with a self-imposed polished imaged of a Saint.

I slipped through the cracks and I saw the unthinkable. Although I continue to roam this earth, a part of me is still there unable to escape the torment of a soul and the vivid images that refuse to die. I wonder if Naima, a divorced mother of six, was able to extract herself from this bottomless abyss in which she was pushed. I wonder if her girls have escaped the same fate or if they have continued the vicious circle of glass breaking.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sister, can you hear me?

I don't feel uncomfortable around a hijab wearing woman and I actually make it a point to salute them with an eye contact, a smile, and the customary Islamic greeting; I always get the surprised look and then the smile and the twinkle in the eye as if I had just liberated a caged mime.  I now look forward to those encounters, albeit not frequent where I live.  My greetings are liberating to myself and they shed a veil; the iron wall raised to confront the unaccepting stares, they momentarily showcase the person transplanted from their environment to this golden cage, and they also falsely build a welcoming sensation that is only given to them by an unannounced Muslim.
Hijab is a beautiful thing but only when it is not used to extinguish ones light and to erase ones'-self under a sheet of black, when it is carried with a sense of pride while exalting a smile and a welcoming aura, when the wearer is not using it as a short cut to fashion and a passport to abundantly enjoy our god given bounty, and when she is not bent on challenging the stares with a Jihadist  look while sporting an oversized ninja costume come undone.
One need only to look at tv's portrayal of Islamic countries to see the antidote to fashion, lack of effort, and the ever present moving black tents.  These are the blank human-less images we are fed in the American media and our imagination is only slightly coerced to fill in the blanks and paint the void with the apparent chaos also depicted.  Sad is the day when globalization is pitting us against each other and building walls it's supposed to erase; in this regard, I prefer the old images of the Islamic world found in antique stores where Muslims are portrayed as tent dwelling people with a harem of beautiful maidens in a sublime desert environment calling to the observer to shed his industrial weight, and dream.
Beautiful sister, fly like a phoenix and burn to rebirth in your true magnificent colors, embrace the world, and showcase your Islam with your motherly embrace of those around you.  It is not sufficient to wear a hijab, it is not yet a check in a box unless you also become the ambassador of your religion, the inconspicuous missionary, the bearer of good news and the dispeller of the myth, the good neighbor, the helpful person unimpeded by your stylish garb, the educator, and even the leader of your immense faith which I lack but so profoundly admire in your courage and determination.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The loss of a smile

Protests in Greece, shelling of innocent civilians in Bani Walid, hurt little girl struggling for her life in the U.K., orphaned child in Syria and yet they all still manage to smile through their tears, through their pain, and through their loss.
We are a creature of habits or maybe that smile is our saving grace? Maybe...
We smile to ease our suffering, we smile to lull our senses, we smile to win support and even save our lives.  We smile to conjure sympathy, we smile to beg for mercy, we smile for redemption, we smile to a baby learning to walk, and we smile to an old man on his cane.  We smile for the picture with the apocalyptic background, we smile for the people torn by war and they smile back.
What happens though when those smiles are used up, when the bulb is burned, and when the glimmer and hope is gone?  What happens when the mask is ripped off our face and stampeded on? What happens when there is no tomorrow and all is lost? 
Desperation sets in and chaos reins and grows like a weed with tentacles reaching far down in our being and souls.  We become indifferent, we become stoic, we lose our humanity and we are plagued by a sinister being familiar and yet strange; a being that wants to be fed those smiles, a being that rejects humanity and paradise, a being that is lost to God and welcomed by the devil, a human in form but void in light, a human bent on revenge and destruction, a death-row prisoner bent on recruiting, a nothing and an all....