FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Better World

by KATHY KELLY

When I was in high school, I participated in a public speaking contest and was asked to present a humorous reading. I chose a passage from the book,–The Joyous Season_ in which a young boy describes how his father dreads the Christmas season with the attendant demands to shop and socialize. I still remember the opening line: “Daddy always said that the best place to spend Christmas is in a Moslem country.”

Now, having spent several Christmases in Iraq, I’m amazed at how easily one can step into the drama of a light shining in the darkness which the darkness shall not overcome. Several days ago, next door to our home in Baghdad’s Karrada neighborhood, baby Noor was born. Her dark, damp, chilly home resembles a stable. Baby Noor’s grandmother begged us for a blanket in which to wrap the newborn. Her aunt, ten year old Eman, has no socks and no coat. She smiles as she shivers. Yet Abu Noor and Umm Noor, the proud young parents, are beaming with gratitude and pride as they hold up their newborn. Leaving their home, I realize that they are slightly better off than the family across the street. At least they have a roof overhead.

Our neighbors on the other side of the street are living in a junkyard, sheltered by flimsy construction. Looking out of our second floor window, Cynthia and I wept with chagrin during this morning’s downpour as we watched two young women navigate their way through garbage and mud puddles to collect clothing that had been hung outside. We call our home “the fridge” because with only 2-3 hours of electricity during most of the past four days our electric heaters don’t work. It’s a sheer act of will to wriggle out of a sleeping bag, cast aside blankets, and face a chilly bathroom and kitchen. Imagine the hardship for those living in tents and shanties.

Whether comfortable or forlorn, military or civilian, everyone in Baghdad is afflicted by the ongoing war. A Kenyan woman, Sylvia, has been emailing me encouraging messages for the past several months. Today she expressed distress over news of mayhem and bombing in Baghdad at Christmastime. “Even in World Wars, Christmas was a time when armies called for a ceasefire,” wrote Sylvia. “I wonder if that only applied when both sides were Christian?” The sad irony here is that people in every neighborhood of Baghdad and other Iraqi cities braced themselves for the onset of Christmas and New Year holidays, expecting violence to rise.

As I write, mortar blasts and bombings have been going on for the past hour and now a wailing siren issues a warning for the Coalition Provisional Authority personnel. I can’t imagine where they or anyone else could go for shelter. As our friend Umm Heyder said, in Chicago, when we asked her thoughts about the capture of Saddam Hussein, “the whole city is captured.”

Koranic and New Testament stories celebrate the journey three kings made, bearing gifts for the newborn Prince of Peace. Better for the rulers of today’s world and every merchant of death who serves them to stay away from the children.

Yes, the Christmas traditions, ranging from the shepherd’s generosity to Herod’s persecution, come alive here in Baghdad. The stories, if embraced, could teach us a better way. Peter Maurin, who helped found the Catholic Worker movement, wrote in one of his delightful “easy essays” that “the world would be better off if people would stop trying to become better off.”

I am sure that many people worldwide share my friend Sylvia’s deep regret. I hope they are thinking of ways to stop paying for war. Most governments today do not want our bodies on the front lines of combat. They want our assent and our money. I hope millions are marking their calendars for March 20, 2004 and helping to plan demonstrations against the inconclusive war that began on March 20, 2003. And I hope all will feel the warmth and goodness of that light which shines bravely in Umm Noor’s shining eyes, as she stands barefoot on a cold, cement floor, joyfully cradling her newborn babe.

KATHY KELLY is a co-coordinator of Voices in the Wilderness. She is traveling to Iraq with a Voices team which will be in Baghdad for the next two weeks. She can be reached at: kathy@vitw.org

 

KATHY KELLY co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence and has worked closely with the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers. She is the author of Other Lands Have Dreams published by CounterPunch / AK Press. She can be reached at: Kathy@vcnv.org  This article was first published on Telesur English.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

August 30, 2016
Russell Mokhiber
Matt Funiciello and the Giant Sucking Sound Coming Off Lake Champlain
Mike Whitney
Three Cheers for Kaepernick: Is Sitting During the National Anthem an Acceptable Form of Protest?
Alice Bach
Sorrow and Grace in Palestine
Sam Husseini
Why We Should All Remain Seated: the Anti-Muslim Origins of “The Star-Spangled Banner”
Richard Moser
Transformative Movement Culture and the Inside/Outside Strategy: Do We Want to Win the Argument or Build the Movement?
Nozomi Hayase
Pathology, Incorporated: the Facade of American Democracy
David Swanson
Fredric Jameson’s War Machine
Jan Oberg
How Did the West Survive a Much Stronger Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact?
Linda Gunter
The Racism of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima Bombings
Dmitry Kovalevich
In Ukraine: Independence From the People
Omar Kassem
Turkey Breaks Out in Jarablus as Fear and Loathing Grip Europe
George Wuerthner
A Birthday Gift to the National Parks: the Maine Woods National Monument
Logan Glitterbomb
Indigenous Property Rights and the Dakota Access Pipeline
National Lawyers Guild
Solidarity with Standing Rock Sioux Tribe against Dakota Access Pipeline
Paul Messersmith-Glavin
100 in Anarchist Years
August 29, 2016
Eric Draitser
Hillary and the Clinton Foundation: Exemplars of America’s Political Rot
Patrick Timmons
Dildos on Campus, Gun in the Library: the New York Times and the Texas Gun War
Jack Rasmus
Bernie Sanders ‘OR’ Revolution: a Statement or a Question?
Richard Moser
Strategic Choreography and Inside/Outside Organizers
Nigel Clarke
President Obama’s “Now Watch This Drive” Moment
Robert Fisk
Iraq’s Willing Executioners
Wahid Azal
The Banality of Evil and the Ivory Tower Masterminds of the 1953 Coup d’Etat in Iran
Farzana Versey
Romancing the Activist
Frances Madeson
Meet the Geronimos: Apache Leader’s Descendants Talk About Living With the Legacy
Nauman Sadiq
The War on Terror and the Carter Doctrine
Lawrence Wittner
Does the Democratic Party Have a Progressive Platform–and Does It Matter?
Marjorie Cohn
Death to the Death Penalty in California
Winslow Myers
Asking the Right Questions
Rivera Sun
The Sane Candidate: Which Representatives Will End the Endless Wars?
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia District Attorney Hammered for Hypocrisy
Binoy Kampmark
Banning Burkinis: the Politics of Beachwear
Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail