FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Better World

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

 

More articles by:

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 

January 16, 2019
Patrick Bond
Jim Yong Kim’s Mixed Messages to the World Bank and the World
John Grant
Joe Biden, Crime Fighter from Hell
Alvaro Huerta
Brief History Notes on Mexican Immigration to the U.S.
Kenneth Surin
A Great Speaker of the UK’s House of Commons
Elizabeth Henderson
Why Sustainable Agriculture Should Support a Green New Deal
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, Bolton and the Syrian Confusion
Jeff Mackler
Trump’s Syria Exit Tweet Provokes Washington Panic
Barbara Nimri Aziz
How Long Can Nepal Blame Others for Its Woes?
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: When Just One Man Says, “No”
Cesar Chelala
Violence Against Women: A Pandemic No Longer Hidden
Kim C. Domenico
To Make a Vineyard of the Curse: Fate, Fatalism and Freedom
Dave Lindorff
Criminalizing BDS Trashes Free Speech & Association
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: The Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party: Part Two
Edward Curtin
A Gentrified Little Town Goes to Pot
January 15, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
Refugees Are in the English Channel Because of Western Interventions in the Middle East
Howard Lisnoff
The Faux Political System by the Numbers
Lawrence Davidson
Amos Oz and the Real Israel
John W. Whitehead
Beware the Emergency State
John Laforge
Loudmouths against Nuclear Lawlessness
Myles Hoenig
Labor in the Age of Trump
Jeff Cohen
Mainstream Media Bias on 2020 Democratic Race Already in High Gear
Dean Baker
Will Paying for Kidneys Reduce the Transplant Wait List?
George Ochenski
Trump’s Wall and the Montana Senate’s Theater of the Absurd
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: the Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Glenn Sacks
On the Picket Lines: Los Angeles Teachers Go On Strike for First Time in 30 Years
Jonah Raskin
Love in a Cold War Climate
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party
January 14, 2019
Kenn Orphan
The Tears of Justin Trudeau
Julia Stein
California Needs a 10-Year Green New Deal
Dean Baker
Declining Birth Rates: Is the US in Danger of Running Out of People?
Robert Fisk
The US Media has Lost One of Its Sanest Voices on Military Matters
Vijay Prashad
5.5 Million Women Build Their Wall
Nicky Reid
Lessons From Rojava
Ted Rall
Here is the Progressive Agenda
Robert Koehler
A Green Future is One Without War
Gary Leupp
The Chickens Come Home to Roost….in Northern Syria
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: “The Country Is Watching”
Sam Gordon
Who Are Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionists?
Weekend Edition
January 11, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Richard Moser
Neoliberalism: Free Market Fundamentalism or Corporate Power?
Paul Street
Bordering on Fascism: Scholars Reflect on Dangerous Times
Joseph Majerle III – Matthew Stevenson
Who or What Brought Down Dag Hammarskjöld?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
How Tre Arrow Became America’s Most Wanted Environmental “Terrorist”
Andrew Levine
Dealbreakers: The Democrats, Trump and His Wall
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail