06 May 2006

Meeting hearts around the bend ...

You didn’t really think I was going to leave you over the long weekend ahead with nothing but that silly, self-centered meme I indulged in yesterday, did you?

Of course you didn’t.

The amazing "Riverbend," a young Iraqi woman in Baghdad who’s been blogging since the start of the war in Iraq and giving anyone who cares a real-life view of what it’s been like there since Shock & Awe, gave me a gentle, if insistent, tug back in the right direction this morning. She didn’t actually say “Hey! Screw your head back on! The world isn’t just about you, silly bird!” but I heard it clearly as I read her latest post.

Writing about early April, 2003, she says:

“By the beginning of April, we had given up on getting any information from television and had to rely completely on the news we received through radio stations such as Monte Carlo, BBC and the Voice of America. VOA was nearly as useless as Sahhaf- we could never tell if the news they were broadcasting was real or if it was simply propaganda. In between news, VOA would broadcast the same songs over and over and over. I still can’t hear Celine Dion’s “A New Day Has Come” without shuddering because in my head I hear the sounds of war. “I was waiting for someone…” the roar of a plane overhead … “For a miracle to come…” the BOOM of a missile… “My heart told me to be strong…” the rat-tat-tat of an AK-47... I hate that song today.”

She doesn’t have the luxury of posting often. Once every two or three weeks, sometimes longer, is the norm. Why? She tells us that electricity is erratic and better used for making meals. Her days – and nights – are filled with danger. Going out to pick up a few things for dinner involves meticulous planning. She doesn’t dare go out alone, so a trip to the market means she has to make arrangements with several male family members to accompany her. Such a mundane errand means sitting in the back seat of a car for hours in stifling heat, waiting ... waiting ... for someone to decide to direct their machine gun at you, or for the car next to you to blow up.

The possibility is dreadfully real.

And yet her “voice” on her blog is even, calm, braver and far more forgiving of America than I could ever be under such horrific, nightmarish circumstances. Before the war she was a computer programmer, working every day as an equal with her male colleagues. She has a college education; she was a perfectly normal, very bright young woman with her life ahead of her, her path shining.

Today, all that’s on hold. The path suddenly dropped out from under her, leaving nothing but a dark hole filled with uncertainty and fear. And yet she blogs with courage and hope, with humor, with undeniable intelligence and with humbling wisdom, making her mark in the world in spite of it all.

Do take a little time and read what she has to say. She’ll help you keep your head screwed on tight.

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