The cultural abyss created by 9/11 also transformed my mother. Mama Bear is how I describe the woman who reared up in support of her Arab husband and daughters. Guantanamo Bay, the invasion of Iraq and Abu Ghraib drove her from the GOP forever. As she discovered her new voice, I fell silent. I had marched in pro-Palestinian and anti-IMF rallies, but took a backseat in the anti-war movement when DC police began indiscriminate round-ups of activists, and all bystanders within proximity of the protests. My neon hair branded me politico-punk activist, but my name gave away my ethnicity; and who knew what trouble my other passport and dual citizen status would cause? As an Arab-American, would I be detained and questioned? And where, and for how long? I joked about being the first to discover if a female ward at Guantanamo existed, but I was terrified of the place. From 2003 to 2008, I stayed out of all movements; the news cycle confirmed so many fears. Life was surreal, often nightmarish. The divide between east and west that I felt within myself was mirrored in US foreign policy.
Larger than life is not a phrase that means much in terms of Cubans. Everything about us is over the top. I joke with my partner that when you look up "exaggerate" in the dictionary there is a picture of Cuba. I'm never one to represent my experience as the Cuban monolith. I know there is no such thing, but when I share the joke with people who grew up like me, in exile, they get it.