Our country, we have failed thee. Shattered to the core, we’ve trampled on your still beating heart more times than we’d care to admit, but surely you must have the tally etched onto every vein and ventricle in that tender organ. Somalia, we don’t deserve to utter your name when we describe ourselves to the foreigners who we now treat more like family than our own siblings.
Today is Mother’s Day, but Hooyo Somalia, we’ve become the worst offspring a mother could ever hope to have. Hope may not be the best word for it, since there is so little of it left in your torn and tattered heart; hope for us to make good on our claims of Somalinimo, of walaaltinimo, of midnimo. We promised to die defending your honor, sweet Mother, but when push came to shove, all we did was turn on each other. We promised to never leave your side, to bear every hardship with patience and resilience, for the sake of the greater good. We did no such thing, Hooyo Somalia, we just turned tail and ran.
We turned to the sea, to the desert; to sit listlessly under orange tarp covers flapping atop brittle and battered acacia trees struggling to hold the weight of make-shift lean-tos, the sides emblazoned with bright blue acronyms that resemble your favorite color more than we’d like to admit. We convinced each other that there was no home for hope here, that our mother was dying and we had to save ourselves before the darkness closed in on us. The darkness we spoke of came from no foreign influence, it came from no moonless nights, it merely came from the darkest recesses of our own souls.
We were the problem all along, Hooyo Somalia, through no fault of your own. We were the only children you had but we acted as if we didn’t owe you anything. We took shelter under that sky-blue UN sign, the one with white borders that so closely resembles your favorite colors, Hooyo. Have you ever heard of such a thing, Hooyo Macaan, of ungrateful offspring rushing off to take shelter in a new home, with a new mother of their choosing, simply because they destroyed the home that their birth mother provided for them? We gave ourselves up for adoption, Hooyo Somalia, and pretended that we didn’t know who exactly gave birth to us.
They say that the sand that covers you now is bright red, brighter than a thousand dying suns, because of how much of our own blood we’ve spilled on your sacred body. They say that we were never meant for freedom, that we are a perpetually failed state, a flawed people’s that weren’t born with the capacity to govern themselves. They tell us that so that we forget what we did to you, Dearest Mother Somalia, so that we forget the thousands of generations of proud history that shaped us. They want us to play the victim role, to believe that we could somehow be the victims of crimes that we perpetrated against you. I wish I could apologize for the rest of my countrymen, I wish that I could make them take back every bullet casing that they carelessly shed onto your barely breathing form, hunched over in pain as one warlord after the next attempted to step into the power vacuum caused by a people who had shed more of their humanity with each falling assault rifle shell casing.
I wish you could speak, Hooyo Somalia, I wish I could hear the pain in your voice. I wish the tears in your eyes could help the crops grow again, but I know that salted earth bears no fruit and that dead trees couldn’t provide shelter even if they tried. All I’ve known, since the second we left Mogadishu all those years ago, is exclusion. We’ve been excommunicated from our own homeland, we’ve been forced to grow tall in unforgiving terrains, to shovel snow from our mother’s driveway with one hand as we tried to keep the blunt lit with the other hand. To hide our shame of not knowing our own roots, to mask it, to cover that incessantly buzzing void with untold intoxicants and fabricated personas, hoping that the all those buzzing noises would cancel each other out. We were forced to recreate the violence that we were born into in our new Western lives; we recreate the violence that we were born fleeing from, while being incubated to maturation in our mother’s distended bellies as they huddled low in undersized shipping boats, watching the shores of Kismayo slowly disappear into the distance, hoping beyond hope that they didn’t become malnourished to the point of miscarrying us.
Did your mother ever tell you how you came to be, my young Somali? Did she tell you how many people had to die for you to have this chance that you take for granted every day in the west? Did she tell you that for every 1 family who made it to Australia, to Sweden, to Brazil, 3 more were left for dead on the side of the road in Beled Hawo, in Afgooye, in Goldogob. Did she tell you that some of her childhood friends didn’t even get the luxury of an Islamic burial? Did she tell you how your family tried to stay when the war broke out, when Somalia’s heart suffered a massive infarction that it has yet to recover from, that your father volunteered to drive a dump truck that deposited mountains of lifeless bodies into the mass graveyards, hoping that it would help stop the bloodshed in some way?
We have failed as a people, we have failed our oath to our Motherland, and we somehow have the audacity to wave blue and white flags in the comforts of countries unravished by the touch of heartlessness. Or, maybe they were, but that heartlessness was directed outside of their own borders so as to secure a prosperous future filled with turning blind eyes and offering aid shipments to the recipients of that same heartlessness. A people divided can never hope to call themselves a people at all. Similarly, a mother can never be happy so long as she harbors resentment for her offspring.
Somalia is dying from heartbreak, but her children won’t let her die. Somalia can’t die until every last one of us bleaches our skin to the brink of Anglo Saxonism, until we reprimand our own children for daring to speak that forbidden Somali tongue. So long as you choose to ride that fence between performative Somalinimo and actually doing something, anything, for the sake of your country, Somalia is unable to die.
You have to make a choice, oh favored reader. You can live in the West and pretend that Somalia is beyond your help, thereby renouncing all ties with your birth Mother. Alternatively, you can help me pick up these bits and pieces of Somalia and superglue them back together. It really doesn’t matter how you do it, you just have to commit to making amends to Hooyo Somalia.
Dhulkayaga wuu noo baahanyahay, adnah gaari cad iyo qabri qabow baad daba ordeesaa. Filin aan bislaan baa kuu saaran sxb…