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Op-Ed: Syrian man admirably expressed his gratitude to be an American (Includes interview)

How do you open an intriguing article about a man who, against all odds, escaped to the U.S. 10 years ago after living under the regime of Hafez al-Assad and Bashar Hafez al-Assad and built a new life in America for himself and his family. He became educated far beyond most Americans without the help of government handouts or programs. And now he is seeing his son attend a university, instead of having an AR-15 shoved into his hands and marched off to fight under the threat of death.

The man I am talking about is Syrian-born; now an American citizen, Asmar Houdon, a man I had the good fortune to interview and spend time with. As I sat in Asmar’s little office cubical one November afternoon and listened, it became clear the cultural divide between us isn’t as wide as I would have once thought. His demeanor was pleasant; His voice was soft. Asmar carries with him a kindness and smile which is both inviting and sincere.
With the introductions out of the way, I began with a welcome, Asmar thanked me before admitting he had been in the country for some time. We chatted about Syrian weather and how it doesn’t take as long to mow your lawn in Syria as it does in North Carolina.

He told me about where he went to school and about how proud he is of his son. Asmar sat casually back in his chair across from me during our interview, until our conversation began to stray from domestic niceties to a more serious subject, politics, and the current happenings in Syria. It was a road I was, in the beginning, hesitant to go down without thoughtful intent. His demeanor changed, taking on an air of sereneness. Asmar was no longer sitting back in his chair, but leaning forward, far forward into what most people would consider to be personal space. I accommodated and leaned forward as well.

He looked me in the eyes, saying, “This is what all Syrians know to be the truth of what is going on in Syria.”

Asmar began talking about ISIS, and what he believes to be true nature and purpose of this terrorist organization which is to be a murdering vessel of the Obama administration for the sole purpose of creating and maintaining instability in the Middle East region.

Asmar continued, “Countries in the region have been working to become completely independent of the U.S., and this would mean the loss of millions of dollars to U.S. companies.”

The war profiteering being had by supplying these countries would come to an end. Asmar believes President Obama is leading back-channel aid to the Syrian President Bashar Hafez al-Assad regime under the lie of humanitarian aid. In other words, Asmar believes by removing Syrian refugees, Obama is weakening the opposing force standing against Assad in spite of the president’s public position of supporting the Assad opposition.

He freely continued with his perception of the U.S. and Syria media and how, in taking their cues from the White House, is leading to the torture and deaths of innocents. Asmar finished and leaned back in his chair; the kind expression returning to his whiskery face. There was a short pause in the conversation when I asked him if we could continue over lunch or coffee sometime. Asmar smiled and agreed.

Never before have I done a follow-up interview with anyone, however, there is more to understand and learn about this intriguing man, and his life and perspective. Asmar works in an office with three other people as a computer technician but my impression is, he is a solitary man, careful for whom he confides in which is understandable considering his former life under a ruthless dictator. Befriending him seems to have brought him out of himself and giving him a chance to maybe for the first time to talk openly about himself, his family, and what is in his heart. It is difficult to put myself in his shoes. Leaving his home country for the unknown, to try and build a better life for his family. To watch his country be torn apart by civil war, and to pray every day for the family he left behind. Asmar most admirably expressed his gratitude to be an American.

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