Sam Van Horn – Unit One Assignment Two Maalouf: Identity

When I am asked who I am “deep inside of myself,” it means there is, deep inside each one of us, one “belonging” that matters, our profound truth, in a way, our “essence” that is determined once and for all at our birth and never changes. As for the rest, all of the rest–the path of a free man, the beliefs he acquires, his preferences, his own sensitivity, his affinities, his life–all these things do not count. And when we push our contemporaries to state their identity, which we do very often these days, we are asking them to search deep inside of themselves for this so-called fundamental belonging, that is often religious, nationalistic, racial or ethnic and to boast it, even to a point of provocation (Maalouf, Paragraph 4).

The reason I chose Maalouf’s section on identity is the striking resemblance to my life. Initially, I found myself disagreeing with his main point of “one belonging”. I fundamentally could not find it in myself to accept that truth, as I have lived my life in a constant state of duality. As a white-passing biracial student, I live in a fluctuating world in which I can assimilate to both sides of the identity spectrum meaning there has never been that “single truth” I’ve upheld regarding who I am. Nevertheless, I chose this passage in an attempt to change my perspective on how I go about my daily life. After reflection, I firmly believe that Maalouf writes this passage with life experience and a greater sense of opposing beliefs and judgement from others, something I haven’t yet attained. In doing this, he is able to convey to his audience his innermost thoughts and demonstrate that identity is but a label society finds easy to place onto others for their convenience. That being said, I believe his commentary is somewhat a cry for help, possibly an attempt to call society out on their demeaning behavior and help end the common belief that identity solely revolves around “beliefs and preferences”. His purpose in this passage is to inform others to withhold from justifying identity to others which directly connects to this question from class: “why is identity told to you instead of asked of you?”. We as individuals need not define or justify our identities to other, as Maalouf says. Our culture, our upbringing, and so on is just a fraction of what makes up who we are. And the important takeaway is just that: it’s not what we are, it’s who.

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