by Brent Hamoud
This is Man. I’m writing to inform you of a very serious problem. Whether you admit it or not, you’re the main culprit in a severe crisis complicating a person’s entire sense of place and belonging in the world. Woman, you have a nationality problem.
This message is not light and fluffy, but when should hard truths ever be delivered softly? Please lend your full attention. There’s a bigger mess on our hands than you’ve ever bothered to realize, and I sincerely pray my God-given wisdoms will be used to expose the darkness of your ignorance to spark some degree of understanding about a humanitarian predicament.
In countries like Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Kuwait and far too many other nation-states, you women do not give nationality to your children. This is deeply troubling; it’s not at all consistent with your nature! Mothers do so much to diligently carry babies through uncomfortable months of pregnancy, endure pangs of labor, and tenderly nurse infants at all hours of the day. Such reproductive heroism is to be lauded- it’s actually essential to womanly godliness- but everything is undermined by your unwillingness to then reproduce nationality.
Do you realize, my sister, what you do every time you do not give nationality to your children? Do you not see how your negligence can set our little ones on a lifetime of complications, awkwardness, and even oppression?
Nationality is utterly necessary. It tells the world who we are and where we belong. Problems of nationality affect all areas of life and strike at the very heart of what it means to be a person.
And PLEASE don’t try to claim that this is only a problem for some women in some countries. Solidarity must never be scorned! Isn’t a shortcoming of women anywhere a shortcoming of women everywhere?
Lady, focus well because what I will communicate is quite technical. I don’t mean to overload your mind, but I must convey the gravity of the situation at hand. We’re dealing with a consequential matter, any extra effort you can muster towards increasing your understanding is warranted.
You see, we live in a nation-state system and this entire global project rests on effectively delineating territorial states and assigning individuals to their proper places. This is accomplished through nationality, the legal category establishing formal belonging to a nation-state. It’s the official thing that allows anyone to be someone. When you’re a national you can reside permanently, work freely, engage politically, move openly, and live securely in a country that can truly be called home. If you’re not a national in your place then you’re a foreigner, and foreigners are peculiar creatures. They exist but don’t belong. This is why transmitting nationality is such a critical parental responsibility. When you fail to make your children nationals you only succeed in making them foreigners.
The situation would be entirely different if nation-states assumed the responsibility of “nationalizing” anyone born within their borders. Unfortunately, only a few dozen countries enact such birthright citizenship. When it comes to nationality the world cares less about soil and more about blood. I implore you, Woman, to care much more too!
Your shortcoming leads me to thank God even more for men. A woman’s failure to pass along nationality means fathers must carry the burden of securing their children’s national belonging. Let’s always appreciate how men so often stand alone in the nationality gaps to guarantee that future generations are fully recognized as human. When Woman’s nationality bloodlines are weak, a Man’s are strong!
However, I caution you against over confidence in the nationality prowess of men. What happens in those unfortunate cases when fathers, for whatever reason, cannot confer nationality? Have you considered the threats lurking against your innocent babes when you refuse to equally fulfill parental obligations? It means your daughters and sons risk missing out on nationality altogether and suffering the nightmare of statelessness. Just imagine how miserable life would be if you woke up tomorrow without ID papers or a passport declaring that you have a nationality. Pretty hefty stuff, no? Is that how you want your own child to wake up on their day of birth?
I realize this conversation is already intense, but I can’t overlook the lack of national pride undergirding your ordeal. Your patriotism, my dear, is truly pathetic. If you don’t give your country to your children then how can you even claim to love your country- or your children? Did I touch a nerve just now? I’d apologize but that would require admitting that I’m not completely right, and that’s simply not true.
Before you get unreasonably angry with me please know that international human rights fully affirm both my concern for every person’s right to a nationality and my insistence that you should transfer nationality to your children, just like men. We are dealing here with worldly matters of high-level rights and law, and its dimensions go even higher.
Let’s see how the Bible handles your nationality negligence. (You do care about what the Bible says, right?) From its opening in a garden to its conclusion in the new creation, Scripture declares that people are meant to belong within their places and communities. To experience anything else is to be rendered a stranger, foreigner, alien, and outsider. As you well know, Daughter of Eve, these terrible exclusions are the direct result of sin and error.
Allow me to delve deeper because the Bible is curiously intentional about using women to showcase the severity our nonbelonging crisis. Surely you have reflected on the ways Hagar, Ruth, Esther, and others testify to the precarious anguish of being in conditions of “out of place.” Seriously, read their stories again and see both how intensely they struggle on the margins of their “systems” and how far God goes to deliver them into the security of belonging. How can you look to such women of faith and then tolerate a world where you, Woman, can actively cast children into wildernesses and exile by denying them your nationality? This is not simply a dilemma of children and nation-states, it’s a matter of faith and God!
It’s all a disturbing debacle. I’m afraid there are rare moments when I slip into a type of mental vulnerability where righteous disdain leads me to wonder if something else is going on here, something more…sinister. Maybe your nationality negligence isn’t the whole story. Is the problem possibly much closer to home? Are men in fact the guilty ones subjecting women to sub-human, second-class citizenships by discriminately denying them their human rights? Could it be that entire structures of nationality are rooted in male attempts to institutionally violate women, mask insecurities, and prop up some pathetic semblance of patriarchy? Is the nation-state and nationality simply another attempt to make sure the earth remains a man’s world? Woman, could it be that your nationality problem is actually… me?
Oh dear, why do I even allow myself to entertain such ridiculous thoughts! Surely, it’s a symptom of the strain I must endure while confronting your egregious nationality failings. My heart and mind are soothed only by remembering Man’s noble fulfillment of nationality obligations to our treasured offspring. May your nationality problem, Woman, only strengthen the resolve of our loins to seed lineages of nation-state membership by the toil of men and for the glory of God!
I yearn for a day when this letter is but an artefact from a bygone era. Do you? How wonderful it would be to share our world as fellow human beings standing on equal nationality ground! Hasten the day, Sister! Man is waiting for you on the mountain tops of nationality! Join us before it’s too late.
Man, The Complete National
Brent is Program Lead for the Master of Religion in MENA Studies. His wonderful wife is Lebanese, but their children are not.