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October 02, 2013 - Image 10

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2013-10-02

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Wedns,.-tbe 2S21//Th Satrr

Dreams of my great-grandfather
by Peter Shahin

Online .CQI'I"ime" nd

sse 921 ann arbor affairs: distance and decisions by jencalfas

Dave Brandon's fireworks: How 'The Dave Brandon Show'
changed the Athletic Department
"Dave Brandon is very much the 21st century Don Canham
- who was running the show when Mr. Brandon was an ath-
lete. I was there during DC's era too and find many similarities
between them. The scale and methods of college sports have
changed, but the dramatic flair is very much the same."
- USER: '82Grad

"So what exactly is the point? He has done many good things,
yes. Have there been hiccups, sure. But by your own story the
good has far outweighed any negative. Stop trying to make a
controversy when there isnt one."
- USER: Bradley Paskievitch

He had my yearbook for a solid
hour. As I watched him scribble
endlessly with black Sharpie
across the back page, I struggled
to find words to put down in his.
It wasn't that I couldn't think of
anything to say, but the probability
of writing down what I considered
to be the elephant in the room -
a.k.a. the lounge our grad night
took place in - outweighed any-
thing else.
After eventually giving up and
writinga short, sweet note and
moving on to signing other year-
books, Zach stood up, handed my
book to my friend who had been
waiting, and walked over to me.
"Don't read what I wrote in
your book. I want to talk to you
about it on the bus first."
Uh, alright. Throughout the fol-
lowing hours ofsigning yearbooks,
eating sandwiches and getting
temporary tattoos, Zach's words
loomed above my head. Grad night
was fun, but I really just wanted
to hear what he had to say once it
was over.
Five o'clock hit: time to head
back. Zach and I walked hand
in hand to the bus and took the
back seat behind all of our friends
who deliriously snacked on candy
and eventually passed out from
"I know it's kind of early, but I
wanted to figure this out as soon as
possible... "

Yep, here it is. The elephant was
about to be addressed.
"I don't know what you're
thinking about this, but I want to
stay together through college. I
love you, and breaking up with you
would absolutely break my heart"
While we only dated for a few
months before making decision to
stay together, it felt right. I often
consider Zach my best friend
rather than my boyfriend, and I
believe that's the best mindset to
have in a relationship. (Note: The
only two other relationships I've
had were in fifth grade and with
my good friend, Huntington, who
is gay. So maybe my insight is a
little lacking.)
The summer of 2012 went by
quickly. August came around and
we both began perusing different
paths in college: he at Washington
University in St. Louis, me at the
University of Michigan.
Although I missed him con-
stantly, I found our long-distance
relationship to really come in
handy when it came to attending
the almost-obligatory frat parties
during freshman Welcome Week.
(We're in college now, guys!)
With every frat boys' terrifyingly
disgusting pursuit, I easily and
nonchalantly responded: "I have
a boyfriend.' While the responses
were usually mixed, it did serve as
a great method to ward off testos-
terone-filled creepers.

As we both became more
immersed in our lives at our
respective schools, the time
between visits became shorter and
our ability to navigate social scenes
and activities became easier. Yes,
we still text constantly and Skype
every so often, but the indepen-
dence offered to each of us allows
us to pursue what we're passionate
Some of my friends who are in a
relationship are perpetually glued
to their significant others, making
it impossible for them to interact
with anyone else. Sure, I often
imagine how great it would be if
Zach were here. But I realize how
much I've been able to progress
by navigating Michigan without
my family, anyone else from my
high school, and, yes, without my
As Daily columnist Emily Pit-
tinos wrote recently, long-distance
relationships might not be worth
it. If you're the kind of person who
can't navigate life without being
led by the hand of your boyfriend
or girlfriend, I'd refrain from
engaging in a life like mine.
The distance remains between
us, but the end goal looms in
both of our minds. With the reas-
surance of what's to come after
school, I can truly explore Ann
Arbor, which I consider a world of
my own.

xomethingi Illy
t did out of
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4p go 4, 0 * ** 009 #r
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I hopeto do

Feast Your Eyes: An ode to Ari and Paul
"Ari is my mentor and I look up to him practically more than
anyone in the industry. An excellent article indeed and well
- USER: Josh Kimbell

About one hundred years ago, my
great-grandfather landed in Amer-
ica from Lebanon - then part of
greater Syria. Fifty years before that - in
1860 - Lebanon had been torn apart by sec-
tarian conflict between Maronite Catholics
and Druze.
He was neither. For generations, his fam-
ily had been Greek Orthodox Christian,
stuck in the middle between a wealthy and
influential Maronite majority and a Druze
and Muslim minority backed by the Otto-
man government.
It's hard to know exactly what his village
was like when he left. Today, Khiam Mar-
jayoun - the same village journalist Antho-
ny Shadid's parents came from - is one of
the few Orthodox Christian outposts left in
Southern Lebanon, a stony town on a rolling
green Lebanese hill.
His father was blind and his mother was
handicapped - though his father made a
meager living by being the village herbal-
ist. (I once referred to the job as a "witch-
doctor," which earned the justified wrath of
my grandmother.) As the Ottoman Empire
waned, my great-grandfather left Lebanon,
alone, at about 16-years-old - hoping to
avoid the Ottoman draft and find work in
The country that adopted him sent him to
war in 1917 - where he fought in the fields of
France for a nation that was barely his, for a
people he hardly knew. His first view of Old
Europe was probably in a dirty trench with
wet socks, where he inhaled mustard gas
and resolved to only donate to the Salvation
Army - since they gave soldiers free coffee

while the Red Cross charged for it.
When he returned from the war, he found
the successful chain of grocery stores he
had built in Flint, Michigan had disap-
peared - as had the money - with a rela-
tive who had been charged with keeping the
business while he was away. So, like millions
of men from his generation, he became an
autoworker. For decades, he worked in the
manufacturing complex that would become
the famed "Buick City," perhaps now more
remembered for being progressively demol-
ished from 2002 to 2006 than for the mil-
lions of cars that rolled off its assembly lines
over the half century it existed.
Though the manufacturing job went well,
the mustard gas from the fields of France
continued to haunt him every winter -
when he would contract pneumonia - but
he had to go to work or not get paid. In the
summers, he saw men in the steel casting
plant, collapsing from heat stroke, being
physically dragged away by managers and
replaced with new workers to keep the line
He again found himself at the edge of his-
tory when he participated in the formative
1937 Sit-Down Strike, protesting those hor-
rendous conditions. My grandmother said,
"He wasn't anything special. He was just
one of the workers." But I still think that's
something. The strike led to the recognition
of the United Automobile Workers by Gen-
eral Motors and later Chrysler and Ford.
After that, his life seemed mostly
uneventful. He raised my grandmother and
her siblings, helped build a church for Arab
Orthodox Christians in Flint and died while

drawing a GM pension.
I never knew him. Sorry for the letdown.
He died in the 1970s, well before I was born.
But his life does serve as an inspiration for
my own - and perhaps the legend is greater
than the man himself.
I'm the child of two teachers, both born
and raised in Midwestern America. Three
generations hence, my family is still Greek
Orthodox, though I don't identify with
being an Arab-American like any of the gen-
erations that preceded me. I'm more than
happy with the food, but I don't feel the
need to debate or dwell on absolutist politi-
cal positions in Middle East policy or smoke
a water-pipe - sorry, now called a "hookah."
As I'm trying to find my way in this world,
I find myself drawn to my own family's his-
tory for inspiration. I don't need to leave my
country with nothing to my name to start
over in a foreign land - thank God for that.
But I do think America offered something
different to my grandfather than it does for
While studying abroad in Russia last year,
my professor said he was one of those people
who thrived on discomfort - the kind you
get from being a stranger in a foreign land. I
would like to think I'm one of those people
too. My great-grandfather must have been.
Instead of traveling abroad and returning
home, he made a new home, where every
day was a challenge to build a life and family
while trying to respect his cultural inheri-
tance but assimilate to his new country.
Something my great-grandfather did out
of necessity, I hope to do by choice. He left
his country to find new opportunities in

another country; I hope to leave mine to rep-
resent it abroad. My goal is to be a Foreign
Service Officer - a diplomat representing
the United States. For my great-grandfather,
life in the United States meant economic
security, freedom and safety from the .-
tarian clashes of the old world. For me, the
modern American life makes it difficult to
build something enduring while racing from
job-to-job and city-to-city searching for that
elusive promise of economic security.
The two pictures that I've seen of my
great-grandfather are of an austere, well-
mustachioed young man about my age and
another from the late 1950s, as a wrinkly,
smiling and proudly toothless old man
bouncing my father on his lap. At the very
least, it's comforting to know that the life
of an immigrant-soldier-autoworker can
lead to happiness - which, when I'm feeling
cynical, I think is restricted to those getting
the $75,000 "starting street" salary in their
first year out of the Business School.
I've never been to Lebanon. The coun-
try of my ancestors (for full disclosure, half
of them) is still wracked by violence and
plagued by a weak government. A century
after my great-grandfather left Lebanon,
the Maronites and Muslims have flipped
demographics, but it's still a very divided
country with an unfortunate penchant for
never-ending retaliatory rocket attacks.
Eventually, maybe, I'll get there. For Niv-w,
it seems about as distant as America must
have seemed to my great-grandfather.
Peter is a Businessjunior and
Daily news editor.


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