Myth No. 1: We Belong
Karfan lived in cities called Tartous and Damascus, and he was told that these are just cities in a place called Watan Arabi (Arabic Homeland). Besides this fictitious homeland, he never knew what else actually joins these cities except the bumpy roads between them. He could see this Watan Arabi on all the maps around him, but never gone to any of the other places that consist this vast land. He was not allowed to go to cities in Jordan or Egypt because he was told they were traitors. He was not allowed to go to cities in Lebanon because he was told there was a war with the enemies. He was not allowed to go to cities in Iraq because his passport bears the seal (Valid to all countries except Iraq!!). Eventually, these "Arab" places became to him, and his generation, as Djibouti and Salvador, mere names.
He lived within people who were called Sunnis, Alawis, Druuz, Christians, Smaeelis, Kurds, Palestinians, Mad'umeen (the favored ones), Mas'uleen (high governmental people), Bathists, Shwam (Damascenes), Shawaya (bedouins), Numailatieh, Haddadeen, Khayateen (the last three are Alwai tribes), Umalaa (traitors), Sheu'ieen (communists) , Mukhabarat (secret agents), Manayek (dickheads), Kharawat (assholes), etc. That is how we call each other, but in school books, we were told that we are Arabs. Except this fictitious categorization, Karfan never knew what else actually joins these people, but they were there around him and he could easily tell who is who and what to call them.
Usually in Syria people ask you "where are you from?" just to figure out whether you are Sunni, Alawi, Durzi, Smaeeli, and whether you are Kurdi or Christian. Tartous, the city where Karfan comes from, has a population of both Sunnis and Alawis. You will be immediately asked in such situation: "where from in Tartous?" Karfan used to play around with people by saying a fictitious name of an area that does not exist and watch his asker straining themselves to find out whether it is in the Alawi or the Sunni side by inquiring where exactly is this area and whether it is in the City (Sunni) or the outskirt (Alawi). But the game of "where are you from?" was mastered by all Syrians; it is an essential skill for living here.
Once Karfan traveled outside to a far away place and there he was asked a shocking question: Were are you from, what is your country? He knew that these people were not interested in finding out that he is an Alawi or a Shawi. He was used to fill-in the Nationality Item on applications because he was told that this corresponds to the name on his passport: Syrian Arab Republic, None of the past three words ever made sence to him or anyone in his generation really. But he never encountered the question: What is your country? Around him, people answered enthusiastically: I am from Canada, I am from Indonesia, I am from Cuba, I am from The States, from Japan, from Korea. So he figured out that he should answer: mm,well, I guess I am from... Syria.
This verbal "obligation" is beginning to be a virtual-reality in the minds of so many people outside and inside. They actualy started to think that they are "Syrians" and were since ever. Hei, when did that happen? What is a Syrian? What is Syria? The people around Karfan are still just Sunnis, Alawis,... Mas'uleen, ...and Kharawat, they still call them selves like that and nothing has changed despite this New Invented Identity! It is alright to want to be something, but it is another story when you lie to your self that you are already that something. Karfan also was jealous of all those people he met outside telling him proudly where are they from, and he, like many, wants to belong to somewhere as well: say, Syria. This might be what we want; we don't have it yet, we never did, yet many are talking about that as if we actually had a Syrian national identity that preceded even that of the French or Japanese!! Some are saying that we had it since the stone ages. Karfan is still asking: When exactely the heck in the past history did we become "Syrians"? I must have been sleeping then.