Is Osama bin Laden your cousin?
No. But I have a cousin named Osama. You should get to know him — he loves Americans and their questions.
You're from Iran right? Or is it Iraq? I always get them mixed up.
Let me make it easier for you.
Think weapons of mass destruction. Think George Bush.
Think war on terror.
War of terror.
How did you survive the war? It must have been so hard for you and your family, living under such a brutal dictator.
Sometimes I forget who was brutal. I forget whose side brutal was on. Brutal kept showing his face on the news, so I assumed he had friends on both sides.
You must have so many stories! Did you talk about any of them in your college essay? Oh my God, you would get in everywhere!
Actually, you know the Common Application, where you go to apply for college? You can attach files to your submission. I tried to upload some weapons of mass destruction, but for some reason I just couldn't find any.
Do you consider yourself Iraqi-American?
It's a label I struggle with. Some days I wake up not knowing whether I'm the conquered or the conquerer. In 2003, a rifle was pointed at me. In 2008, we moved to American, and suddenly I was the one holding it.
This time I was pointing the rifle at my old identity, asking it why it always mispronounced English, why it thought there was a difference between freedom and democracy, asking it whether it thought Arabic was written from right to left to confuse the West, and asking it if the Mississippi had ever heard of the Euphrates.
In an interview with CBS News on September 12, 1996, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was asked the following question:
"We have heard that half a million children have died [in Iraq]. . . . Is the price worth it?"
She replied, "We think the price is worth it."
I recently found out that Secretary Albright teaches at Georgetown. I was rejected from Georgetown. My application essay was 500 words long, but I wanted to write 500,000.
Growing up Mama always told me, el maerof yergos iegol al gaa oja. "Those who can't dance always say the ground is crooked."
Mama, it's hard to dance because the ground has 500,000 cracks whispering under my feet.
They're telling me their names, ages, stories, and asking just how many cracks a medal is worth.