Friday, June 19, 2009

Many Lebanese are migrants, too

It's Migrant Week here at Developing Lebanon in honor of Friday's International Migrant Day. Today I'm going to write a bit about Lebanese migration.

It's funny to me that so many Arab-Americans turn out to be Lebanese, understandable, of course, because of the war and all. Still, I find it funny (funny strange, not funny ha ha) whenever I meet an American who proudly claims Lebanese as his ethnic heritage, as it seems, so...profound? In my mind, the diaspora is symbolic of the sectarian strife the homeland has faced. Then I look around and see not only the Lebanese-Americans, but all of the prominent Lebanese-Americans, like US Secretary of Transportation Roy Lahood, whom President Sleiman is meeting with on his visit this week. I'm sure the meeting isn't to discuss planes, trains, and automobiles.

The first documented Lebanese to come to America was Antonios Bishallany. He left Lebanon after his family disowned him. Apparently he got into trouble for becoming a Protestant and was sent on his not so merry way by the Maronites. Two years after arriving in New York, he died of what sounds like consumption.

I don't know how many Lebanese emigrated to Aermcia during those fifteen long years, as estimates vary and many returned to the land of the cedars when it became clear the nightmare was over. Yet I do know that most have assimilated into Aemrican culture with ease, though they have never severed ties with the Motherland.

They aren't much different than the Irish in that regard. In fact, there are a lot of similarities. I'll write more on that later during Migrant Week.

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