Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Living on the edge

Only recently, I spoke with my grandmother who is currently in Baghdad.  She had made the bold decision to return from the comfort of Sweden to a city which is portrayed in Western media and on Wikipedia as a strict no-go zone.  According to numerous accounts which flourish daily, deadly explosions and gunfire forms the everyday life of this city, once the cradle of knowledge and enlightenment.  I called on her mobile, her voice shaken with surprise at my stumbling Arabic, which has weakened through my diasporic years.  I asked how she was, she responded Al Hamdullah, and explained that the weather was much better than in Sweden.  I turned to the question of security, and she told of a recent explosion which had sent pressure waves, shattering every window in her house.  Luckily, she was in the bathroom at the time.  

Some people live on the edge.  The edge of being, the edge of life, the edge of hope.  She is only one of millions who live in a city, shaken by sporadic violence and seemingly unpredictable death.  She knows, better than many of us who dwell in the comfort of our Western societies, that life is precarious.

Ironically, the game of security and life and death appeared to contaminate through the virtual phone line, across continents, and into my kitchen, when a house mate pointed out that my conversation with my grandmother in Iraq had probably been registered in some hypothetical counter-terrorism CIA version of Western security.  I laughed at this, but the thought sneaks back upon me as I decide to produce a first entry on a blog about Iraq.  I contemplate the risk of registration, of the mark of suspicion which may or may not characterize the institution of Western security in the face of matters which relate to the Middle East.  

And then, in my mind, the windows of our house in Baghdad suddenly shatter into crystals of sharp glass, scattering across the floor.  I wake up from my self-regulating obedience to political correctness and precaution.  It is not I who lives on the edge, it is not I who have to worry if my partner will return safe home from work, or if my children should attend school tomorrow, or if I can safely go for a walk to pick up some groceries.  

It is the people of Baghdad and Iraq who give me the courage to speak my thoughts, it is their suffering which prompts me to write.  It is the courage of those who truly live on the edge which shadows my feelings of self-regulation and censorship.

I'll continue writing for them.         

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