Monday, July 04, 2005

Thursday, June 23rd, 2005

I arrived to New York today, from Washington D.C... I was very tired from traveling, and carrying the bags…
People here, I mean the men, do not help women as we are accustomed in our country.
My friend "Tara", a Canadian, came to meet me at the airport, and we carried the luggage together, no body helped us, and when we got to the building where she lives, we said hello to the janitor, but he didn't come to help us, so, we pulled the luggage to the elevator, and babbled a little about his miss-manners, I said to her; maybe if we have offered him some money, he would have helped us, for there is nothing done fro the sake of GOD here… money is perhaps the only language. On the train from Vermont to Washington D.C, I arrived at night, after 10 p.m., I wished someone would help me to bring down my luggage, I asked an African American man, who was sitting near the door where the bags were to help me, he was wearing headphones on his ears, but he said: I'm sorry, I have my stuffs. Then he went off the train, carrying one bag on his shoulder.
I wondered at the men of this city, in our life, men run to help any woman, considering that to be an act of gallantry and noble manners…and here, they just shake their shoulders, and move on carelessly…
This is an astonishing culture…where women demand their rights, what are their rights?
I said to them, in more than one occasion: in Iraq, and in most Arab countries, the woman has the right to learn, work, vote, travel, drive cars, choose her husband, handle her possessions, so, what do you think you will bring to the Iraqi and Arab women more than that?
And now I discovered that the Arab Muslim woman is respected by the men in society, and always pampered in public places, and among friends and relatives… if I carry something heavy, I always find someone would take it from me, and help me, if I had a flat tire on the road, I always find some man would come forward and help me. It is an expression of respect that would always make us happy, giving us a sign how firmly connected our societies are, and how beautiful, natural, and comforting our relations are.
Our professor said, in one lecture while we were talking about the foreign non-governmental organizations when they enter some society; then they would make a common mistake, when they address all that society with the language of: we understand more than you do, so we shall spend the money according to our own understanding… and so the money would go to fancy cars, luxurious offices, luxurious houses for the organization's members, on meetings, workshops, and empty talk….while what that society really needs is development, productive projects, marketing the products of poor families to improve their conditions… but no one really cares about the real needs of people.
There is a huge gap between that society, and the organizations that came from abroad for its sake…
And I think the Iraqis suffer from the same problem…. Hovering between the American administration's vision of the solutions to solve the Iraq problem, as they think it is the right solution, and between the Iraqi's vision, which no one listens to, for two years and more now… and look what the outcome is?
Destruction, devastation, losses of souls and possessions, and nobody cares, for the sole loser is the Iraqis themselves…
When I arrived in Washington in the evening, I found Rick and Mary waiting for me at the railway station…
We took a small car driven by an African American man, we put the luggage in it, and he dropped us to where they parked their car.
When we got to the house where they live temporarily, we said; it is really a small world, for we met for the first time in Baghdad after the war, as they came to work in a non-governmental organization, which really helped the poor families, by organizing workshops teaching sewing for women, teaching them a career, in the hope of helping them improve the income of their families.
And we met again in Amman, after I left Baghdad, tired, my head heavy with worries, and questions: what is happening in Iraq? Where are they driving us?
And today, here we meet in Washington; it is really a small world….
When we were in Amman, Mary gave me the address of the institute in Vermont, but I rejected the idea in the beginning, and found it ridiculous: what peace shall I study? What empty words? Iraq is being destroyed!
But GOD had it in His will that I would go, so I assented to the idea later on, applied for my Visa, and had every thing they asked for ready to go, and participate in the summer training course.
I got a lot of benefits out of that program, it opened my eyes, and through it, I understood a lot of what happened, and what is happening to Iraq… I saw a lot of participants from many world countries, each told the story of his country, with the pain in it, without the usual filtration of the lying, official governmental Media…..
On the next morning, which was a Sunday, we went for a walk in the wide streets of Washington; this city is the governmental center, I found it clean, tidy, and officially elegant, filled with government offices in big, sizable buildings, and distinguished buildings like the Capitol, the Congress Library, the White House, the Senator's offices, and their employees, where they receive people from outside America, or from the inside, by pre-arranged appointments, listening to their speeches, promising them that they will relate it to the Senators….
There were many Museums on the same area, we had a discussion, then decided to go to two of them only; the Botanical Museum, displaying the botanical life from around the world, and the Native Americans Museum.
An American friend, whom I got acquainted with yesterday, asked me: what did they tell you in that Museum? Look how we killed them?
I said to her: it made me very sad to read the story of the Red Indians, and the injustice they were subjected to, I wished that Rick, Mary and I could stand on the pavement just outside, and ask the people walking out of the Museum: what are your comments about the Museum?
My American friend said, laughing: Faiza, what do you expect? They will tell you there are lots of beautiful pottery in that Museum, from the traditional Indian products…
I laughed a lot to her sarcastic remarks…. I didn't expect those remarks from an American, for they are more sarcastic than my own….
Ha, ha, ha…
The Museum was new….built with a beautiful Architectural design; the main exterior building material was small, yellow stone, and glass. Inside, there were electrical elevators and escalators, wide walkways, and marble. There were some halls showing documentary films, exhibits of traditional products, or sculptures and paintings by American Indian artists, commemorating the memory of their heritage and symbols. There were halls hosting glass fronts, on which was written sections of the history of the eradication of the native people of this country…
A long, sad history….bringing to shame the consciences of people, those who still have any conscience…
There were exhibits of knives, daggers, swords, and sickles they used to make, small jars, and pottery cups, like any simple primitive products of people living that age, (the beginning of the story here, is the year 1491, as the Museum says).
Then, the history here says; the Europeans invaded this land, found gold in it, and used it as a source of strengthening the currency of their country, starting campaigns to kill the natives here, and in about 150 years, they killed more than 20 millions of them, and only a few millions remained, living in far off regions, isolated from the cities built by the white new colonists.
Those colonists were hungry and greedy, coming from a Europe which suffers wars and crises, so they found this land, full of the wealth they need…
All right, you could have shared the wealth with the natives, but why kill and eliminate them?
Shame on you…….
What is this sick mentality, a mentality that loves injustice, tyranny, controlling the weak, killing them, and obliterating them from existence?
Then, they forced the Christian religion upon them, so that each Indian performing the rituals of his old religion would be punished by death.
What is this? What kind of a religion is this?
If we made them Christians, like us, they were supposed to have become our brothers and sisters, to be treated fairly, and given their rights. But to force them to take our religion, and then enslave them, how can that be?
There is a cruel, sick mentality of those Europeans, and I can see that some of it is still here, in their grandchildren…
Mary asked me: what did you know of the story of the Indians?
I said to her: when I was young, I used to see western cartoon films, without translation, and in those, there was a Red Indian, with a feather in his hair, his nose was crooked, meaning; he was wicked, he used to sneak behind the rocks to hurt the innocent, nice people…
Ha, ha, ha… then, in the western cowboy movies, we used to see the same story, only played by people, not cartoons…
That was how America marketed the story of the Native Americans to the world.
Why did they change their minds now? Is it really a case of an awakening conscience?
And what is the meaning of an awakening conscience, after 500 years of such a history?
We tried to buy something as a souvenir from that Museum, but the prices were fiery… a small statue of an Indian man or woman, had a price of more than $100, or more than $200. There were some marble slabs, on which there was engraved some Indian faces, with feathers in their hair, the cheapest of which was $30….
The spirit of the material and investment still dominates the Museum's atmosphere…
Rick and Mary gave me a book about the elimination of an Indian tribe, they said you shall cry a lot, and be sad. I said to them: I learned not to cry about the stories of sadness, but to make them a lesson to learn…. Like I watched the film of the Rwanda hotel… I didn't grieve, but learned… I always remember the journalist in the film, when he said to the hotel manager: I will not send a video tape about the Rwanda massacres to the media for the people to see…. For the people in my country shall watch it, then say: (oh my Gosh), then go to have dinner, talk, and laugh….
And I remembered my friend from Tanzania, when she told me in an evening, while we were having dinner at the institute: I do not understand these people… We in Africa live in difficult conditions, people die of hunger and diseases, and we are struggling to help them, and improve their conditions, and today, I met an American woman, who came here, she had a gold fish at home, so she hired an employee to look after the fish during her absence here in the institute, the man called her today, and told her the fish died, and I cannot describe to you the shock and sadness that befell the American woman, as she cried for the gold fish….
We fell in to laughter….
I said to her: our hearts are tired from grieving for humans; getting hungry, suffering, getting sick and dying, we think how to help them, and save them, while that woman lives in another world…. The biggest catastrophe in her life, is the death of her fish…
How can she understand what we say?
What does hunger mean, to a sated man, who has never known hunger?
What does fear and sadness mean, to someone who has never lived wars, and the loss of security?
And the irony of it, is that those people's governments are involved in the destruction and devastation that we suffer from….
How do we make them understand?
Some of them do understand, feel, apologize, and want to help….
While some are stupid, and stubborn, like an ox….
What do we do?
People here in America, as I have seen in my meetings, are two clear types, or perhaps, there is a third type hovering in the middle…
A type like Rick and Mary, and their friends in Washington, working day and night in a campaign to stop the war on Iraq, and to pull out the troops from there. Like Janet, who was my room mate in the institute, a professor of Women Studies in a University, who told me about the past mistakes in the American history, and about the new generations of her students, who are asking questions, and looking for convincing answers. And like Helena, who took me to Boston, and who has a web site, on which she always demands to stop the war on Iraq, always receiving angry and vicious e-mails from Americans. And there is Susan, who works with the Quakers in North Carolina, participating in demonstrations against the war on Iraq, carrying in her car a list of the dead and wounded Iraqi civilians in the war on Iraq, an American flag bearing the word "Peace" in Arabic and English, and the signatures of American men and women who say: we do not want the war.
These people have a clean, live conscience, seeing things, and measuring them like any human outside America, whom the materialistic culture didn't deform their minds, so they kept seeing what is right, and what is wrong, distinguishing between them, and rejecting the wrong… working to stop it, and preventing it from bringing more harm to the whole world….
They see the ugly parts in their country's history, admitting it, and feeling ashamed by it, and they are not less nationalistic than the second type, who strongly denies the idea that there are historical mistakes, and a wrongful path in their country's history, and thus justifying all the ugly deeds; killing the Indians, slavery, the enslavement of Africans, the Hiroshima bomb, Vietnam, the war on Iraq and Afghanistan, interfering in the world countries affairs, pressuring their governments to alter their policies, like the Latin America countries, and like Philippines, Nepal, Korea, Japan, and the Arabic and Islamic Middle East countries….neglecting Africa, and its people in need of development, and advancement, interfering, in public and in secret, in the policies of the governments there.
The second type always thinks that their country is always right, playing the role of GOD, The LORD of all people, and they are proud about that….
All the people I met were of the first type, the ones who love peace and justice, and when I said good bye, I said to them: Pray for peace in Iraq, and the world…
They said: We will, and we shall work for that purpose…
And I said: Me too, I shall pray, and work…
What is the percentage of these good people, compared to those who support evil on earth, and they don't know?
I do not know….
But GOD shall give victory to his good, faithful worshipers, however much there numbers were..........
Rick and Mary said, when I said goodbye to them: We want to go back to our house in Baghdad…for our hearts are there, in Baghdad…
I said: I shall keep praying to GOD that peace would come back to Baghdad, so you too shall go back to your house there…
I face two problems here:
First, that I started thinking with myself in English all the time, so I could arrange my thoughts before the meetings…and that is good for strengthening the language, but also sad; for I love the Arabic language….
And second: I miss the aroma of our culture; the houses, the people, the streets, I miss the sight of mosques, and the sound of Al-Atha'an, (the call for prayer), Allah Akbar… Allah Akbar, (GOD is the Greatest), ringing in the evening, dawn, and noon…to bring peacefulness into the believer's hearts.
I wish to get back soon.......
Peace be upon you all....................
Translated by May/ Baghdad.

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