The Family (Or most of them)

The Family (Or most of them)
The Family

July 23, 2006


A lot of very insightful people are posting on the ugliness occurring right now in the Middle East, and rightly so.

It's all so abhorrent. What I sometimes feel is being lost, however, is the humanity of the average person living through this terror, a sense of who these Lebanese, Syrians, Iraqis, Afghanis really are.

In 1979, I was part of a 4 1/2-month overland bus trip from England to India and back. India, where I spent almost two months, was an incredible, magical place, but that's for another blog.

The rest of the time, we couple of hundred Canadians, Aussies, Brits, Scots, Irish, Filipinos and others from countries with close ties to the Commonwealth were motoring through Europe, Greece, Turkey, the Middle East, Pakistan and Afghanistan, among other countries.

The Shah of Iran, whom I met, was still the Shah, surrounded by his Savak secret police. The then-Soviets had not invaded Afghanistan. Iraq was under the iron fist of Sadam Hussein. Syria was what Syria still is.

I followed with obvious interest in these subsequent years the downfall of the Shah when Ayatollah Homeini took over Iran shortly after we left it for the final time, and the ensuing kidnapping of American hostages.

I watched when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, an untamed frontier, and look at who's there now and that hopeless situation, with Osama Bin Laden still apparently hiding out in the hills.

Of course I have seen the Gulf War and Gulf War 2 and now Hussein is a broken and beaten man but his country is an absolute mess and the U.S. is even more in a mess for being there.

And what stirs me the most about all of these events, what I most think of when I imagine the carnage, is the fate of some of the many beautiful citizens of Afghanistan, of Iran, of Iraq, of Syria that I met along the way.

The store owner in Kabul who pulled a knife on me when I used the word f*** as we haggled over the price of a lambs' wool sweater, telling me later he learned the word from the American "hippies" living in an area called "Chicken Street."

The young Iranian in Tehran who sauntered up to me and befriended me, brought me to meet his parents for dinner, his only request that I tell him as much as I could about North America.

The kind taxi driver in Baghdad who drove two of us around for three hours, explaining the customs and why women wore veils, etc., and at the end, did not charge us for his time or his gas.

The scores of lively people in the bazaars, the lovely women in Mashed and Kerman and Tehran dressed to the nines in their western garb as the Shah tried to modernize the nation, in stark contrast to Iraq and the veils and black clothing.

The beauty of gorgeous-looking, bright-eyed kids introducing themselves without fear and volunteering to take us here or there.

I tried Google Images to find pictures of some of these kinds of beautiful faces. Except for a tiny few, all the images are of bloodied humans crying or looking devastated at the devastation around them.

I just want to make clear that beyond the theology, beyond the bombing and the politicians and the CNN interviews and analysts and the military strategy, those people on the other side of the world are just like you and I.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. I'll probably be hung, drawn, quartered and shot for saying this, but American foreign policy in the last 30 years has shown all the hallmarks of American Christian evangelical theology. That is, it's not enough to help one's fellow man and let that stand as the example.
    Instead, we've adopted the policy that, after we help you, we're going to convert you to our morality, our cultural outlook, and we're going to mete out our aid our way until you get the message.

    Of course, even that policy backfires when the 'misguided Godless heathens' realize that even the various North and South American natives in the colonial eras of the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries were willing to let missionaries prattle on for the opportunity to receive iron and steel tools.

    That is, except for Israel and the Commonwealth of Independent States. But that's another story for another day.

    If Bush and his coterie of Manifest Destiny types would actually bother to read any history other than the Tom Clancy revisionist school, they might do well to consider the fate of Athens as its power and influence grew and waned and how its relationships with its allies evolved and mutated.

    Maybe I've oversimplified a bit, but the Bush administration has oversimplified a lot.

  3. Agreed, FE, although I'm not nearly as knowledgeable about this stuff as Homo Escapeons (I mean from a Canadian's point of view).

    When Carter was doing his thing, and some others, it seemed the Americans were doing all the great things across the globe that a world leader should, because it was the right thing to do.

    Now with Bush, ESPECIALLY with Bush, it's all about pushing the American Way and if you're not with us, you're against us.

    And that means there's always an ulterior motive, and his thing is it's all about him and the Far Right, no one else. And he cloaks this approach with all this crap about WMD and the War on Terror.

    He has created the terror America has faced, and everything he has done since then has been designed to escape that reality.

    My point in this piece was merely to say there are human faces and hearts and souls out there, regardless of religion, who are suffering every day because of it.

    And those faces, and the lives they had before that now are lost, shouldn't be forgotten or ignored.

  4. Nice tribute to the region. That sounded a bit like the legendary Magic Bus.

    PS DOILY!!

  5. Andrea, you GOT it!

    That's what my sisters, girlfriends, even my mom and grandmom would do...

    Just SAY the word DOILY! Or PANTIES! And I'd turn purple or run away!

    Thanks for reading the bit on the humans in the Middle East. They ARE lovely people.

  6. I have neither the experience nor expertise to add anything profound or factual to this "debate", but it is pleasing to read some words of common sense that try to avoid the appalling rhetoric at each end of the argument.

    Every single culture has it's good people, and every single culture has it's bad people, but most of all it has it's people.

    They might look different, they might sound different, the might dress different, they might eat different, they might even theologise different, but they laugh the same, they cry the same, they ache the same, they cheer the same, they worry the same, they rejoice the same, and at the end of they day, they bleed the same and die the same.

    Mostly, we are all the same, and whilst I won't be so presumptious as to pretend to know the solution to all the difficult problems in this world of ours, I can't help thinking they would be a little easier to resolve if enough people remembered this.

  7. Birdman:

    You don't need expertise or anything but humanity to say what you just said, which was brilliant.

    I have nothing to add except to say I appreciate your humanness and agree with your sentiments entirely.

    Thanks for this. It's these kinds of thoughts that keep the world revolving despite itself.

  8. ** those people on the other side of the world are just like you and I.

    I always knew that...


  9. You wrote a beautiful tribute to the everyday people over there.
    It is such a shame that ordinary people do not run the world.

    Frontier Editor is bang on about Dubya's Clancyesque perceptions of the region and the prevailing neo crusader mentality. The Bush Administrations' ridiculous notion that inside every Iraqi is an American dying to get out has fallen flat on its face.

    I hope that someday the entire region will be settled enough for a couple of guys like us to go over and wander around. It would be so cool to have little giggling children holding our hands and and shopkeepers smiling back at us as we stroll through a marketplace filled with exotic yells, bells and smells.

  10. Exactimundo, HE.

    Dubya wants everyone to be from deep in the heart of Texas.

    They're not, so he wants to blow them to smithereens and, while he's there, oh, just get their oil reserves and convert them to the Far Right so they'll be saved.

    Because he will.

    And, hell if they don't just put up a little resistance.

    Thus his famous quote, with an even more famous goofy grin, "if ur not fer us, ur agin us," or something like that.

  11. Nice post, WW. I agree with all of you about our pseudo President and his loopy policies.

    My son told me last year when he came back from his first deployment to Iraq, "Mom, the kids there are the cutest!" This from a Marine who carries the SAW (squad automatic weapon) for his squad. He hates the killing and the bombings and the craziness. He wants to be back.

  12. Carmenzta:

    Your son sounds like a great guy. And let's hope he comes back, safe and sound and secure.

    Americans are Beautiful. This is all about your pseudo president and his band, as you describe.


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