Sunday, June 18, 2006

Fathers Day, 2006

This time last year I was putting together the most satisfying post of my bloogging experience. My correspondence and interactions with an Iraqi father began some time before when I posted a tragic snapshot of the war, Nihad had to Die, by the screen name Abu Khaleel. One thing led to another as our cyber-friendship unfolded. I'm sure it's because I am involved, but reading over the posts still gives me satisfaction. We are very different people, but we can agree on one point: the US presence in Iraq, whether or not it started well, should now come to an end. Without arguing background, it is plain now that the presence of US forces is doing more harm than good.

Rather than go off on a rant about the war, I encourage the reader to go back to last year's Fathers Day post to capture something better, an account of how two fathers were able to reach one another in the midst of a horrible war and find common ground with a civil exchange of emails and blog posts. It is a long post but worth the time it takes to read.

Ibrahim Al-Shawi is the author of A Glimpse of Iraq, the blog listed on the sidebar as "Abu Khaleel, Glimpse." now available in book form. This articulate, patient, very patriotic Iraqi gentleman presents a picture of his country that should be required reading for anyone who wants to be informed about Iraq. Here is a sample insight you might find. It seems like a trivial point, but those who ignore it do so at someone's peril, if not their own.

It is probably perfectly normal for an adult American to be seen chewing gum in public. In traditional Iraqi society, the act of chewing a gum is reserved to women, but never in public. Country folk utterly despise city boys when they see them chewing gum. They regard it as feminine. Even little children are discouraged from doing it. The sight of grown, armed men chewing gum must have been one of the causes of many people losing their respect for those armed men! It simply conveys an unintentionally ‘undesirable’ image!

This also reminds me of a young US soldier manning the Iraqi side of the Iraqi-Jordanian border. He glanced at our passports with a lollypop in his mouth. I couldn’t help but notice the reaction on the taxi driver’s face: Utter contempt!

I really cannot blame those American boys for doing some things that are completely natural and normal. There was no way that they could have known that those little normal acts could be misinterpreted by others. But here I am talking about how perfectly normal actions can be seen from across the cultural divide. I cannot address the rights and wrongs of this. People’s cultures are different; we may see some of their attitudes as wrong or detestable, but that view will not change those attitudes, especially if they hold to them in their own environment and in their own country.

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