The Annual Pearce Essay Contest





I Believe That the Personal Is Political

By Iman Abu Aitah
“Just give us a story, a human story. We’re not interested in politics. We just want to tell people about you and your people, so give us a human story. Don’t mention those words ‘apartheid’ and ‘occupation.’ You see, this is not political. Help me, as a journalist, to tell your story, which is not a political story,” he said to me.
Forgive me, Mr. Journalist, but I don’t think I understand your request.
Forgive me, but I can still see the middle-aged woman embracing her child for the last time under the rubble of their destroyed house. I can still hear the screams of the sixteen-year-old boy who lost his entire family—and his legs. I still remember the twenty-five-year old woman who was pregnant in her seventh month, and, had she lived for only two more months, could have tasted the sweet joy of motherhood for the first time. I can hear the cries of the six-year-old child who has witnessed the death of his mommy and daddy, and I remember the brokenness and defeat that I saw in his eyes. I can still see the wounded flooding the corridors of the only two big hospitals in Gaza. I remember, as though it happened yesterday, the seventeen children who joyfully put on their best clothes and went out, despite the fear and suffering, to celebrate the Holiday by buying cotton candy and playing on the playground, not knowing that they would never get to play—or breathe—again. I remember entire families who were removed from the governmental records because no one was left to carry the family name. I can still see the families who sought shelter in UN-operated refugee schools because they are supposedly “protected by international law; no one can touch them there,” yet their safe haven became their grave yard.
Mr. Journalist, these people are all me and I am all of them. I can still feel the fear of not knowing if I will live to see another day. I remember wondering if I will ever have the chance to embrace a loved one again. I remember the empty flower-topped desk next to me where my best friend used to sit before she was added to the list of “collateral damage” when we were eleven. I remember everything with vividness and clarity that I sometimes disdain, and I can certainly never forget losing my own parents, two brothers, and four-year-old nephew in an “accidental” Israeli bombing.
These people are not numbers. They are human and I know every single one of them personally because I am all of them.
How can I tell you about the death, the poverty, the destroyed infrastructure, the lack of medication, the strip searches, the humiliation, the human rights violations, and the loss of land and identity, neglecting that all of these upheavals are the product of colonial powers? How can I describe an occupied people without describing an occupier?
Mr. Journalist. I do not believe I understand your request, but I do believe that the personal is political.




By Anonymous

Love, I believe, should always have a beautiful connotation, should be freely expressed, and should never be a cause for shame.

I’m not homosexual, never have been. As a matter of fact, I really enjoy the sensual presence of a man. However, when I got to college, that old saying “love is blind” completely slapped me in the face. I met a young woman who was full of life, beauty, and wonder, one who soon permanently changed my life. She was in the same situation as me—she wasn’t gay and she loved the opposite sex. However, right when our eyes met, we clicked perfectly. We love the same sports, music, and hobbies; we have the same family values, morals, and goals; we share the same jokes, sadness, and happy times together. The feeling she gave me was crazy because it was a high I had never experienced. We hung out more and more and became closer and closer. We actually became best friends and lovers, but our relationship was secret. Neither of us knew where our relationship was headed, but we just let it take its course. She left her boyfriend for me, and we clandestinely became the dream team. We met each other’s family, and hers made me feel like I truly belonged—always caring for me and keeping me in mind.

We had a great freshman year together. But one day our dreams were shattered by reality. Her family became suspicious and started treating her like an untouchable—an unwanted piece of rubbish. School came to an end, and I had to go back home for the summer; therefore, our love story went from so sweet to very sour. We had to end our secret relationship and accept the distance between us. Her parents forbade us from hanging out or communicating as we had been used to doing because they were so against homosexuality. The funny thing is that they were merely suspicious; they never had any facts about us. But they didn’t need any because they were too closed minded on the subject of love.

Needless to say, I was depressed the entire summer. I lost a lot of weight and hardly ever had an appetite. I had medical issues and even had to be rushed to the hospital one night. The one person who knew everything about me and knew how to handle me in any situation was gone. She was gone. I had never felt so alone in my life. We weren’t supposed to be together, so nobody really knew how durable our bond had become. Don’t get me wrong; she was sad, too, but my sadness endured for many long months and still haunts me to this day. I will never understand how simply loving a young woman because of her personality, beauty, and intelligence could be considered so erroneous and sinful. I honestly looked forward to being with her lovely self every day. Whether we studied together, tried new restaurants, or had ice cream at the park, I truly enjoyed every second of her company.

If I could somehow enlighten the closed minds of others and show them that we didn’t mean any harm, I would spend the rest of my life traveling the world giving a voice to the voiceless. Something harmless and full of great potential will now never be. Love, I believe, should always have a beautiful connotation, should be freely expressed, and should never be a source of shame. 


Read essays written by the 2013 contest winners!

The topic for last year's contest was "This I Believe."

1st Place: "I Believe in the Power of Words" by Kristina Syrigos

2nd Place: "To Overcome is to Dream with Your Eyes Wide Open" by Erica Cooper

3rd Place: "I Believe in Participating in Life" by Amber Mathias

Read essays written by the 2012 contest winners! 

The topic for the 2012 contest was "Aha! Moments" at Columbia College.

1st Place: "Finding Confidence in Competence" by Virginia Pfaehler

2nd Place: "My Epiphany" by Maiava M. Blackwell

3rd Place: "We All Have the Same Holes in Our Hearts" by Isabella Jones

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