Thursday, January 27, 2005

"I would rather die standing than live on my knees!"

-(Emiliano Zapata)

Yesterday I was reading MSNBC’s story about the deadly CH-53 Sea Stallion crash in Iraq. About midway through the article there was a box with links entitled “Related Coverage”. There was one link:

Live Vote: If you were an Iraqi, would you be willing to risk your life to vote Sunday?

So, I thought I would click through to it, and I clicked “yes” without thinking about it much. I was shocked by the results: at the time they were 39%: yes, and 61%: no. At that point only around 25,000 had voted. This morning I checked again, and by now over 60,000 people have voted, and the results have only changed slightly to 38%: yes, and 62%: no.

First I though, well, this must just represent MSNBC readers. This can’t represent all Americans. Americans are proud and patriotic.

Well, I don’t know, but it got me really thinking about it. Maybe I was just trigger happy with my response to the poll. Maybe I wasn’t putting myself into the Iraqis' shoes. I haven’t been living there, seen the daily carnage, suffered through the power outages, the water shortages, the car bombs, the kidnappings of relatives, the killings of friends or acquaintances at the hands of US soldiers or the “resistance fighters.” How can I suggest that they should go risk their lives to go vote?

But that didn’t sit with me too well. I just can’t see how staying at home not voting is going to help. I guess, if you have no faith in the elections, and believe they are a sham and will have no use, then I can somewhat understand not having high hopes in them…but on the other hand, what are the options?

I can’t see how not going to vote is better than going to vote in, albeit, imperfect elections. If no one goes to vote, how will the situation change? How are representatives going to be chosen, who are going to make the blue-prints for a new government? By not going to vote, you are in a way saying that the status-quo is okay. That Allawi’s government is a-ok with you.

If the country I were living in were occupied by some other country, I would sure as hell want them out of there sometime in the future, no matter how beneficial their presence there may be. I would want to choose my leader, and not have them imposed. I wouldn’t want to be the pawn between two groups. And if the only chance I have at that would be to take part in some elections, however imperfect they may be, then I would do that.

Yes, they will be risking their lives. But I have to ask, why does someone want to continue living in such misery? How do they think things are going to change, if they don’t act? You can’t blame everything on the Americans and the terrorists. Unless they start taking things into their own hands, and grasping whatever opportunities they have to do something, someone else will always be deciding their fate.

I was reading Riverbend’s latest post yesterday, and was dismayed. They haven’t had water for a few days, because terrorists attacked the water lines.

It's amazing how as things get worse, you begin to require less and less. We have a saying for that in Iraq, "Ili yishoof il mawt, yirdha bil iskhooneh." Which means, "If you see death, you settle for a fever." We've given up on democracy, security and even electricity. Just bring back the water.

This Reuters article also stated:

Insurgents are suspected of attacking water mains outside the city several days ago, cutting off supplies, but the U.S. military had no immediate information on such an attack.

In the absence of hard information, rumor and speculation often run riot in Iraq.

Some Baghdad residents say the Iraqi government and U.S. military have cut off the water on purpose to frustrate people and prompt them to vote in the Jan. 30 election.

Others take the water shortage as yet another sign that the U.S. occupation has brought them nothing but problems.

Even if the Coalition forces leave, the terrorists won’t. And they won’t be organizing any votes for the Iraqis to take part in.

Contrast Riverbend’s sense of helplessness with this brave Iraqi's sense of duty:

Only hours after his brother was shot at a checkpoint by an unseen terrorist, this young Iraqi soldier marched proudly out the door to man the exact same checkpoint for the rest of the night.

I can only hope that more people understand what is at stake; it goes beyond individual fate. To Riverbend, I can only say: in German there is a saying, which translates to: "If you are standing up to your neck in water, don't hang your head."


Blogger Sarah said...

Before our elections, I was trying to decide what my vote was worth. Would I take $100 to vote for Kerry? $1000? Would I take money to stay home? I honestly didn't think I would take money to relinquish my vote; I can't imagine not voting if I were an Iraqi. Of course I would risk anything to vote. But I already think like an "American"...


3:18 PM  
Blogger ac blue eagle said...

I think the actual vote will tell a lot!
Also, tell me how, and I'll put a link to your site on my blog!
I like your thoughtful commentary.

6:48 PM  

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