PHOTO: Michael Yon captures Christian and Muslim people restoring a cross to the top of a church in Iraq. “All the people, all the people in Iraq, Muslim and Christian, is brother.”
[Thanks, Michael, for all your hard work. I hope this gets you a Pulitzer. Note: Michael Yon works by donations. Please help him stay as an independent voice in Iraq free to follow the stories.]
I have been relentlessly optimistic about Iraq, much to the bemusement of nearly everyone I know. The educated, sophisticated positions fall in these categories notes The Anchoress:
It’s one of those photographs that takes the breath - there is a feeling of cognitive dissonance. Some of us on one side - who perhaps have never understood why we went to Iraq in the first place - may look at this picture and say, “but…but…Iraq is a hell-hole, an unmanageable, unwinnable, place of civil strife, death and occupied people who hate us!”I'm naive and idealistic. My opinion has always been that the Iraqis are people, people like any other, who suffered under the thumb of tyrany, who only ever saw excessive force achieve ends, who ruled by domination, who wished for a peace they thought impossible, who saw family murdered and yearned for vengeance, who were disoriented once faced with choices again and needed time to learn to trust.
Some on the other side, who - overwhelmed with images of burned flags and screaming mobs - may have forgotten the humanity of the Iraqi people (people we let down once before, and who had reason to distrust us and our commitment) may see these Muslims and Christians raising a cross together, in a language of brotherhood and gratitude, and say, “but…but…all those people are bad people…”
Some of us will discover that we have said or thought both things at one time or another. It’s not important which one of those people you are. It’s important, though, to get a sense of what is going on over there, where our people are serving, living and dying. It’s important to realize that where there is danger and tragedy, there is also progress and hope. In the major media outlets, we get big servings of the first two and very niggardly helpings of the latter. We need a more balanced diet of information.
In a government governed by themselves, they'd have to learn to trust themselves to choose wisely and then they'd have to learn to trust those chosen. In short, they were people like you or I who needed time to let their wings dry and learn to fly. Again, this is what The Anchoress says she sees:
What I see in this picture is something more than a historic moment - I don’t even know if that’s what we should call it - I see the sort of thing people do when they are neighbors, when they are working together for their neighborhood, for the good of all who live there, and that makes it seem less “historic” than calmly, wonderfully normal, ordinary, wholesome and sane. I see tolerance, which so many are so certain cannot exist in Iraq - or anywhere in the Middle East. Tolerance in the best sense of the word - converting no one, insisting on nothing beyond ordinary acceptance; tolerance that gives people room to live their lives.
Sometimes hope has felt foolish. Was it ignorance not idealism, that had my heart soar when President Bush waxed eloquent about the desire of all people to live free? Maybe. But I don't care. It seems better to be hopeful than cynical. Wretchtard over at Belmont Club says:
It is strange that in history every true victory is about the same thing -- not territorial expansion or power -- but the affirmation of the essential equality and brotherhood of man. [Emphasis on the whole thing, admin.]
Iraq may still yet fall into the dark. The people may choose war over reconciliation. The Middle East may yet be thrown into despair by an unstable Pakistani or Iranian regime. The Iraqis themselves, may trigger these happenings. Rest assured, all eyes are on Iraq as this phoenix rises from the sandy ashes of suicide bombers in the desert. Freedom for Iraq strikes fear into the heart of every other despot and it should.
It only takes one to make freedom ring. Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Gandhi, Mandela, Reagan, King. But those men were nothing without the individuals to take a chance on that vision. It started with the soldiers willing to fight for it. It started with the people willing to sacrifice blood and fortune for it. The Iraqi people are doing this. They exhibit extraordinary courage. These are people who have never seen this freedom and still believe.
Speaking of big ideas that too many Americans take for granted and some have seemed to forgotten entirely, Nickolas Sarkozy gave a breath-taking speech before Congress. It moved me to tears to watch it last night with my husband.
Summing up, as always, Glenn Reynolds says of Iraq (and I add, of Europe, too): "Let's hope these sentiments continue to spread."