Sunday, May 22, 2005

A nagging question.

I woke up this morning and headed to my clinic and as usual I need first to walk to the garage where buses stop but today while walking my way at the same time I was curiously inspecting people's faces; I passed by tens, maybe hundreds of them during that 15 minute walk. The same questions jumps in my mind with every new face I pass by "is this one Sunni or She'at?" maybe he or she is Kurdish, Turkmen or Assyrian.
I failed to reach a satisfying guess in any case.

I took my seat in a KIA mini bus and I waited till more passengers came in and filled all the seats, then the driver took off and we started moving.
Again I was looking at faces trying to figure out what everyone was; actually I was trying to see if there was a way to identify one's belief, sect or race from his or her face or behavior. Silly? Maybe.

I turned to the window looking through it to the street trying to run away from this nagging question. At this moment I saw a joined Iraqi-American patrol; this time when I looked at the faces, I was able to see a difference between the men of the two armies. Although they all wore similar uniforms, It was easy to distinguish the Iraqi skin, I looked again at the faces in the bus and it was so clear that these were all Iraqi faces; those in the bus with me and those in the back of that Nissan pickup patrolling the street.

I arrived at the hospital where my clinic is, saying "good morning" to every colleague I pass by on my way to my office up the stairs and across the ward and here I remembered that I never asked any of them about his sect; it's true that family names can tell in some cases but without knowing those names one would never find, well unless by a direct question.
I frankly kind of envied a little kid I saw; my nagging question had no place in his young mind.

I really love the purity and innocence of childhood, why do we destroy it with our-most of the time-needless or ridiculous thoughts and insist that they start thinking like us and adopt our thoughts as part of maturing?
Will there be a day when we present these thoughts and beliefs to our children without bias and let them decide for themselves? I don't think I'll live to see that day in my country.

Back at home, at the end of the day I turned the TV on and sat to watch. There was a show where an Iraqi family was interviewed and my nagging question didn't bother me this time but then came the news hour and I started looking at the faces again and this time I was able to find answers, I was so able to recognize who those people were; this one is Sunni and that one is She'at and this and this and….
I couldn't get these answers back in the streets or at the hospital but they were so clear to me on the news.

Do I see the shadows of a civil war? Yes but this war will not extend beyond the HQs of parties and the 21 inches of the screen while the street, the bazaar, the clinic and my city Baghdad (which is a smaller version of Iraq) tell me a different story than that of corrupt politicians and fake clerics.
My proof to that is that I couldn't find anything on the faces I see everyday but features that I can't have doubts about; Iraqi features only that indicate nothing except that who carries them is a son or daughter of this country.

Of course I'm wrong. Who am I to disagree with all the big names and brains of strategy sitting in big offices and surrounded by lights and guards.
Maybe they're a little isolated from the people but there's no chance they could err.
And who am I to disagree with the shiny names of the media who although might be spending 3/4 of their time in a hotel room and might not even know the culture or the language of the country but they certainly are the giants of their field.
In comparison I am just an Iraqi guy who lives in the town, walks in the streets and meets more people than he's supposed to so certainly I don't see what the big names see.


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