Why Can’t We Get Along?

I am a young woman who was not old enough to really know what was going on when the US troops were deployed in the Middle East. I was not alive, and was then too young, to realize the deep pattern of cause-and-effect that describes the way that the world looks today. Growing up in a world where war is on the lips of everyone all the time makes it difficult to understand the very life that I’m living- the politics of living in a world without war. Of course, I don’t deceive myself. There is almost no generation that I can think of that hasn’t been affected by some sort of war within its time on earth. I don’t think this is located in one single world or world-view.

One of the reasons I am interested in reading Baghdad Burning is because it gives me a reference point to locate myself within my own world. This is the voice of someone I don’t know, halfway across the world and before I was old enough to comprehend what was going on. The realization is even harder, I think, when I note that there were children at that time, my age, who lived in a world so different from my own. While my life was relatively untouched by the war–I didn’t really know anyone involved until much later, I don’t live close enough to major cities where I had the possibility of being reminded every minute of every day– there was a little boy or girl who was seeing things that I could never imagine: things that I don’t wish to imagine.

But now I find myself imagining these things through the eyes of a girl who was twenty-four at the time. I am only twenty-one now. Not that far away.

I think we have to accept that we will never know what life is like outside of what we see. I will never know what the Middle East is like unless I start living there; even still, I will see it with different eyes than someone who’s grown up there. Someone from Baghdad will never know what it has been like to grow up as an American. This is true: but it is worthwhile to read and consider the other person’s point of view.

I have incredible sympathy for the things that Riverbend has gone through. I can’t imagine what it must be like. But I also think that as much as she wants to be considerate of Americans in her blog, she comes across like she thinks she knows more about the world than anyone else. While I agree that she certainly and without doubt knows more about the occupation of Baghdad than American troops, there are many things that I think she takes for granted.

As one example, in her blog post from October 21, 2003, she is talking about a demonstration that occurred because the Quran was thrown to the ground during a search. Now, I realize that this is a touchy subject. I want to make it clear that I don’t think throwing the Quran to the ground is right. It is not right, ever. However, Riverbend’s wording shows that it is not just Americans who are prone to stereotype other cultures. She writes:

“How would the troops feel if Iraqis began flinging around Holy Bibles or Torahs and burning crosses?! They would be horrified and angry because you do not touch a person’s faith…

But that’s where the difference is: the majority of Iraqis have a deep respect for other cultures and religions… and that’s what civilization is. It’s not mobile phones, computers, skyscrapers and McDonalds; It’s having enough security in your own faith and culture to allow people the sanctity of theirs…”

Ok. I get the anger. And again, I’m not defending anyone here. What I’m saying is that, in a time of war, ALL cultures have moments of lapse of judgement and/or lack of thought. I’m not saying it’s right, but to make the stab at mobile phones and computers and McDonalds is to say that all Americans are lumped into one group, that no one in this country values religion or culture. That, simply, is not true. There are plenty of people EVERYWHERE who dislike war; who wouldn’t dream of disrespecting someone else’s culture; who wouldn’t don’t divulge on fast food 24/7. There are also many people who, if given the chance, would burn bibles and torahs and the Quran and any other sentimental or religious item just because they can.

Sometimes I think people need to remember that forgiveness and forethought are the most important qualities that humans possess in preventing mindless war. To point fingers and categorize the other person is not the way to stop the violence.


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