Thursday, November 29, 2007

Thursday Ramblings

I am not a student of Middle Eastern culture, nor do I pretend that I am anything other than what I am, a parent, an American, an outside observer.

But the situation in Iraq and most of the Middle East troubles me.

I say that I am a parent first, because it is the most prevalent reason for my need to peek at a part of the world, and a culture I have no part of, and will never visit. It is my children’s world that will be affected throughout their lifetime by what happens the next few years in this ancient region.

Second, I am an American. With a gullible pride and wide eyed optimism that is so ingrained in our culture. I simply cannot comprehend a way of life that is lethal to itself and its own people. Golda Meir once wrote “Peace will come to the Middle East when the Arabs love their children more than they hate us..” As a mother, I simply do not understand familial pride in knowing that my child will go blow himself, and others, up for a “cause”.

I have, during the past two to three years; glimpsed into a world so foreign to me at times it is difficult for me to comprehend. I have read blogs from Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia in a search for understanding. I feel I have still come up empty handed. I encourage my daughter to correspond with children of these countries. Maybe there is something that I am missing, that they, through her, can teach me. I haven’t had much luck.

You will see on my favorite blogs list, Sunshine’s Days of My Life blog. Let me tell you about my contact with her.

Sunshine is a 15 year old that lives in Mosul, Iraq. Mosul is (more so since the peacefulness that has spread in Baghdad) a very violent city. Sunshine has seen the windows in her house blown out many times, dead men in the streets and her town ravaged by this war. She has watched helplessly while her mother, a well educated woman, suffered crippling depression. Through all of this, Sunshine has steadfastly maintained her excellent grades and a grace that is so rarely seen in young women today. I encouraged my eldest daughter to correspond with her and watched in dread as the first e-mail went out. Ashley had filled the posting with slang and typical teenage-speak. Thinking that I couldn’t decipher much of what she was saying, I swiftly dispatched my own e-mail to Sunshine apologizing for my daughter and promised to explain to her that when speaking to kids in other countries, it is best to use basic, simple English.

Within hours, I was castigated by a very indignant Sunshine. She haughtily told me that she understood every word that Ashley had written her and that she was not different from my daughter. She explained that she wore modern clothes and spoke with many kids in the “outside” world. HA! Needless to say, I firmly tucked my tail between my legs and left the two of them to their own devices, vowing never to butt my nose into the inner workings of two teenagers chatting again.

I digress.

I found a statement in Faud Ajami’s book “The Foreigners Gift” that rocked me to my core.

It would have been heady and right had Iraqis brought about their own liberty, had they demolished the prisons and the statues on their own. And it would have been easier and more comforting had America not redeemed their liberty with such heartbreaking American losses. There might have been greater American support for the war had the Iraqis not been too proud to admit that they needed the stranger’s gift and had the United States come to a decent relationship with them.”

Do not get me wrong, Mr Ajami doesn’t condemn the US, or the Iraqis, he is merely explaining the mindsets, that this is the thinking that is predominant today: “What would have, could have, should have, been?” . Mr. Ajami states that the “disaster” in Iraq came when the Muslim imams, Arab leadership and even Western thinking intellectuals refused the gift that we Americans were offering.

Isn’t it funny, that we view personal freedoms and liberty from tyranny a “gift” that is ours to give? It must be our silly, gullible pride and wide eyed optimism.

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