And who are you? Or tell us about yourself? Questions many of us face in many ways, whether it was in an interview, or going around the table introducing ourselves. As for me, I was asked many times this question, “Who are you?” by many one, two, even 3 star U.S. Army Generals when I was in Iraq. The last time I had to introduce myself was a few months ago at a dinner for the U.S. Consul General Bill Grant for Basrah.
A few adjectives echoed in my head over my last encounter with a high official, a U.S. Consul General. The memory reminded me of many previous times when I introduced myself, but had the feeling I was giving an incomplete answer. Therefore, I decided to write this blog and give a complete account of three adjectives that describe me. I am not speaking about one of the most fundamental American questions, “What do you do?” in terms of skills as a programmer, as Tim Ferris called it an Epidemic of job descriptions as self-descriptions. I strongly feel that this question is about the identity of who we are, our thoughts, and our feelings that drive daily life decisions.
I Am Ninos. I am an Assyrian-Christian-American born in Iraq.
The three adjectives are Assyrian, Christian and American. I feel more like a Middle Easterner in America, and more American in Middle East and around the world. A hyphenated complexity complicated furthered by decades of war in Iraq during the first half of my life living under a totalitarian regime, then to live in freedom in the next half of my life under a democratic regime.
I Am an Assyrian. And, it starts with my name Ninos (Ninus, Ninvs), known to be the founder of Nineveh, a Capital of the Assyrian Civilization 6000 B.C. I am in Diaspora and exile from Assyria, modern form Iraq, (not to be confused with Syria). Sometimes, I share with my father the traps of consuming and obsessive nostalgia. Maybe I have missed being a prisoner of my own memory or origin. It is a minority of the ruminating Nation of Assyrian who are in diaspora. My family members are scattered around many countries: Canada, Germany, Sweden, Holland, United Kingdom, Lebanon, Austria, and Australia to name a few, and some remain in Iraq. This has been a by product of many wars. My family and I is a sample of the Assyrian Nation. We have become a Nation without borders. I am a ruminate of 6000 B.C., I am the people of Nineva from the Old Testaments. As it is written: “Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth.. and Assyria the work of my hands” Isaiah 19:23-25.
I Am a Christian. It is an adjective I purposely add to my definition when I introduce myself to people. It is an adjective that adds a second dimension to who I am. Some people have an allegoric feeling when they hear this, others have careless feelings depicted by a, “And So” reaction to it.
However, it is a heavy adjective that comes second in definition. If you are not from the Middle East, then you don’t have a complete understanding or feeling for the word. Many of my ancestors died for the sake of being Christians. It is a belief encoded in our genetics. My values, traditions, customs, and a drive in my daily decisions come from this belief. I proudly confess my faith. With all due respect to the cooperate America that is so allergic to the word Christian, my life destiny is not determined by an H.R or recruiter. I believe in a living Jesus who has the Heavens and Earth.
I found it to be extremely ironic when famous entrepreneurs and visionaries like Steve Job or others talking about having faith in their products or services, yet the word faith comes from religious context had have abounded that definition and adopted it in their creation. I wondered about this: “How could they have faith in an object or better yet, how could they produce faith, if they don’t have faith in a living God in the first place.”
I am an American. It is true! My name does not sound an American name like Mathew or John. I don’t eat hotdogs or have a dog. I don’t like baseball, and don’t watch American Football. I don’t drive Harley Davidson. And, I am not white. I speak with an accent. I cannot spell. But nevertheless, I am an American.
I have served, helped, sweat, and taken shelter shoulder-to-shoulder with American soldiers in cement bunkers and behind t-walls in Iraq when it rained mortars, rockets, and grenades. I was honored to receive The Outstanding Civilian Service Medal signed by LTG Raymond Odierno, 2007. I worked more than three years with the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. I did my job faithfully to America.