I want to look up at the Heavens and see the moon over Assyria. Often, I have wondered what it would be like to be able to say, I come from Assyria. To hold an Assyrian passport. To know that there will always be a home to return to free of persecution and fear. What would it be like for the language of the country to be the language I freely speak at home? Assyrian. What would it be like for all the sounds and sights to be predominantly Assyrian? What would it be like to see the Assyrian flag everywhere in its natural habitat? What if the local post office and all postage stamps were Assyrian? What if all schools, businesses, government offices, courts, judges, barbers, grocers, teachers, mechanics, president, vice president…were Assyrian? What if I could go to church without the fear that it can blow up at any time? What if my nation would never be persecuted for its Christian faith? What if I was no longer the foreigner in a foreign land, but a native in my own land? Would the street signs be in Assyrian? Would the marquees above businesses and theatres be in Assyrian? Would job applications be in Assyrian? Would the operator answering the phone speak my language? Would the tourists carry an Assyrian phrase book? Would all the Assyrian artifacts and national treasures return home to their rightful heirs?
I don’t know if this will come to pass within my lifetime. But I can dream because I’m an artist and dreams are that with which artists sketch. I dream of looking up and seeing a moon over Assyria casting its light on a tired people finally able to lay their heads and sleep at home in peace. While I dream of the Assyria that can be, I remain the orphan living in foster care. I look to the compassion of humanity for a nod of acceptance knowing that I will always be the outsider…not just a foreigner, but the one without a country…the adopted child coping as best as she can with the throbbing desire to find her way back home.
For the time being, home is America where driving down any street, one is bound to run into an American flag or two on any given block. It’s nothing out of the ordinary. Many homeowners and businesses display the American flag. They multiply on the Fourth of July, Memorial Day or historically significant days. The stars and stripes wave from car antennas. They are on uniforms of all sorts. We are accustomed to the sightings. But in Diaspora, what we Assyrians are unaccustomed to is spotting the Assyrian flag in a public location that is not associated with anything Assyrian.
Woodbury University’s 22-acre campus nestled at the foot of the Verdugo Hills is a private four-year school, located in Burbank, California. Just twenty minutes north of Hollywood, it is a stone’s throw from the heart of the entertainment industry with nearby studios such as Disney, Universal, NBC, Warner Brothers and DreamWorks Pictures SKG. With about 1,500 students, the university offers degrees in its School of Architecture and Design, School of Business and Management, and School of Arts and Sciences.
Entering the tranquil setting of the campus through the massive ornate black iron gates just off Glenoaks Boulevard, an Assyrian flag proudly waves at the passersby, with the word “ASSYRIA” boldly printed in black on the flag in block letters.
So why has this university permanently installed an Assyrian flag at its entrance?
Two years ago, a patriotic Assyrian by the name of Jean Kardously, established an annual “Assyrian Design Scholarship Competition” at Woodbury University. Pushing the envelope, on April 4, 2007, he insured that the Assyrian flag would be recognized and displayed on the Woodbury University campus.
To most, it may seem like a small gesture. After all, it’s just a flag. But for a nation that is struggling for recognition it is more than just a flag. It is a faint heartbeat. Until the resurrection of Assyria, we look to the kindness of strangers who welcome us in their midst and publicly acknowledge us by our name.
I look up at the Heavens tonight and see the moon over Assyria illuminating a humble Assyrian flag proudly posted in a foreign land waiting to return home.
©2007 Rosie Malek-Yonan. All Rights Reserved.
Assyrian International News Agency (24 May 2007); Zinda Magazine (20 May 2007)