Thursday, May 12, 2005

Perception is Everything

MJ at Political Notio has a post about his disappointment in his Conservative friends’ reactions to his interview with his Iraqi friend, Ahmed. At first I was going to respond in his comments section, but I thought I would prefer posting this on my blog.

Because these friends didn’t post their comments, and just wrote emails, I can’t judge the content of the comments. So perhaps they truly were just completely oblivious and stubborn reactions.

People believe what they want to believe. A few days ago, I met with my professor to talk about my thesis. I will be doing a content analysis, and hope to find a certain trend. And I said to the professor: “Well, I really hope that I can find a trend or some kind of change over the years.” And he replied: “Well, you are the one deciding the variables for the analysis.” And that is exactly what we do when we read reports from Iraq. We can pick and choose what we read, and dismiss points of view we don’t like, and laud the ones we do.

For example, if I would like to see the negative aspects of the war and the American occupation, I go visit Riverbend at Baghdad Burning, or A Family in Baghdad. If I want to hear a more positive outlook, I read The Messopotamian or Iraq the Model. These four blogs all present honest and heartfelt accounts of life in Iraq.

One thing is for sure, Baghdad is burning. Neurotic Iraqi Wife writes in her blog about her worries of slipping down "The Road of the Faithless”:

when I ask them about Baghdad, all they say is "Forget Baghdad, Forget Baghdad that once was, Baghdad now is a big wild forest, filled with wild beasts roaming its streets freely, roaming the minds easily, Forget Baghdad" To forget Baghdad is like erasing my whole identity, how can I forget the one thing I yearn for??? How can I forget the dreams, the hopes, the memories??? How can I???

In her comments section, Ahmad from Iraqi Expat writes of a friend from Baghdad who came to visit:
He is VERY pro-liberation and optimistic; however, when I asked him about Baghdad, he said "I will bet you anything that you can't see Baghdad and not cry".

Anyone who can’t admit that the war, the US occupation and the wrath of the terrorists hasn’t torn Baghdad and other cities to pieces is heartless. The devasation caused by the war is very real and very depressing. Although the war in Germany was 60 years ago, my grandmother still drives through the streets of Hamburg and will point and utter sentences like: "this whole street was leveled." War leaves scars that will always be visible for those who experienced it.

However, admitting that and acknowledging the suffering Iraqis are going through on a daily basis, doesn’t mean there isn’t hope. And I think many people fear to admit how bad things have gotten in some parts, for fear that it overshadows the overall progress. Perception is very important, and if we only focus on the suffering, we are ignoring the progress.

I think Michael Yon, an embedded reporter in Iraq, sums it up best:

As the new map of Iraq unfolds, a picture of progress emerges. The Iraqis who want freedom and democracy are gaining ground. From what I hear about the news back home, this might sound unreal. Nightly tallies of roadside IEDs and suicide car bombers driving headlong into crowds, like the Vietnam body counts on the Huntley-Brinkley Report, are the main summary of events, while most of this country is peaceful.

There are seventeen provinces in Iraq, and more than ten are quiet. They are busy rebuilding the infrastructure; building a new democracy, but mostly just getting on with life.

Unfortunately, the "Sunni triangle" is a region churning with an insurgency that shows no sign of letup. But by focusing on the flames, the media does not give the world a fair or accurate representation of what's happening for most Iraqi people, or for most of the Coalition forces. I, too, have spent most of my time in Iraq in these dangerous provinces, so even these dispatches might indicate that Iraq has more problems than is actually the case.

Yet even here in the warring provinces, progress is clear. I have endured many tedious meetings with agendas focused on roadside trash, local business development, or Iraqi police training. These normalities do not make good news.

Though "the media" zooms in on the flames, viewers are equally complicit. After all, who among us is more likely to tune in or read about another successful Iraqi adopt-a-highway initiative, when the other option is dramatic footage of the fighting that our people face every day inside these jagged borders?


Blogger Chris said...

Well, thanks again for the link. I'm not sure I deserve two in one week.

You are right to assume that my friends emails and phone calls were "truly just completely oblivious and stubborn reactions."

They were mad at me for posting the interview, saying that I was ignoring all the great progress that is being made in Iraq. And only wanted to report negativity.

And their comments where they assumed that Ahmed was thriving because he was able to answer my email was ridiculous.

Had my friends written comments for all to read, I would not have done the update. But, because they wanted to remain anonymous, I decided to do a main post about it. They are in-the-closet neocons.

My friends that I speak about are cut and dry, absolute good or bad, totally in support of Bush. And they will not tolerate any dissent. To me that's just crazy.

As you can tell from reading my posts, I do not like Bush. But Ahmed does. Ahmed still thinks he is a great liberator. I think he is a wuss.

Also, I am not sure where in my interview did I try to relate only what I perceived or believed. The interview was short and the questions were extremely general. I wasn't able to do any follow ups, and some of Ahmed's answers are in total contradiction to what I think. However, some are right on with what I think.

I do like your perception is everything title, which I think comes from me :) And that is simply all that I was wanting to relate to people. Not my perceptions, but someone who is there witnessing everything. An ordinary Iraqi who still has faith that all will better one day.

You are right that people will get out of it what they want. I just think that 150 people a week being murdered in the streets of an American occupied country absolutely overshadows any progress that may be taking place.

8:19 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Hey sorry I hope that my comment above doesn't sound too harsh. I am writing this at work and I have to move quickly and sometimes I write from the top of my head.

I think you have done a very fair job of presenting my interview and my blog. Thanks again.

I would hire you on my staff any day.

8:23 PM  
Blogger CaliValleyGirl said...

Pffff...ex-squeeze me, since when did you trademark my post title?;-)

I was actually trying to find some speech Hillary Clinton did back in the day when she uttered those three words.

I never said the interview was tainted by your perceptions. I thought it was a very beautiful and moving interview. And obviously Ahmed has gone through suffering that I, sitting comfortably in my arm chair, can't imagine.

Um...what else? Oh, yeah. Definitely 150 lost lives a week is not something to be ignored. However in my mind, their deaths overshadowing the progress is exactly what their killers want.

Lol...and don't worry. I know that you are passionate about your opinions. I don't get offended.

8:37 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

I just read your comment on my blog.

Sorry I don't have an email listed. I have a number of reasons for that.

One is because of my job, I am not supposed to have a blog. So I have to be very quiet with a lot of things. There have been people on our staff fired for having blogs.

Now there are people that I work with who know I have one, but I trust them. Plus, as you already know, I have friends that know also. And why I have so many Republican friends is beyond me. But I'm glad I do, cause it keeps me from drifting too far left. I wish I could say the same about them :)

I will see what I can do about the email thingy.

Wow, you got 3 comments in one day!

8:38 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

I'm sorry ValleyGirl, but their deaths should over shadow everything. If, in America, people were being blown up in the streets by bombs, I don't think the current political discourse would be about phasing-out Social Security or John Bolton, like it is now.

If the same was happening in Europe, the current debate would not be about the ratification of the EU constitution. It would be about the more important things like the almost 2,000 dead since Jan. 30.

Just think how much more progress could be made if we had brought security. I will talk about progress all day when the fighting stops. You can't rebuild a country during war. It has to stop.

If overshadowing the progress is what the insurgents want, and it appears that you and I both agree on that, then aren't they accomplishing their goals? And wouldn't that mean, then, that we are failing?

I don't think by shifting the focus onto the progress that is being made would halt the insurgents at all. They have many goals, only one of which is to overshadow Haliburton's progress.

And to go back to the beginning, all of this is not the result of insurgents shifting focus, or people only focusing on what they choose, but rather the current situation is the result of a total lack of planning and intellect on the part of Bush.

4 comments in one day. That has to be a record for me.

12:24 AM  

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