Appealing to People in Ancient Lands

Persia lives large in my imagination. I picture it as a
center of art and culture with beautiful buildings covered with colorful tiles
and symbols, often floral patterns which we still echo today in our textiles,
especially the paisleys and the bright colors. The carpets of Persia are still famous
and we have remnants of these beauties in the carpets that still come from the
regions around Turkey. The markets are a part of that picture in my mind, with
more patterned fabrics and carpets and the smells of exotic spices and foods,
with fruits piled in wanton display and coffee sipped from delicate vessels.
Persians loved beauty and surrounded themselves with it, at least as I imagine
this ancient empire. They were poets and they were also mathematicians. Syria
and Iraq both encompass lands that once were part of Persia and share in this
rich history. The Tigris and Euphrates rivers cross in Iraq and they are
highways that also take us back in time to that fertile triangle our schools
mentioned so often as the cradle of civilization, as a place where people could
settle down and stop wandering as nomads because the fertile soil, refreshed
periodically by flooding, provided a perfect spot for agriculture, and the
resulting steady food supply provided the perfect circumstances for people to congregate in towns, which gradually grew into cities.
It is always sad when once proud and powerful people lose
their nerve or their confidence and fade from the heights they once occupied. I
remember experiencing this for the first time when I was quite young and watched
the movie Lawrence of Arabia. I was shocked when Lawrence fell from grace and
retreated for a while into a kind of depression. He was such a powerful man,
however eccentric, and he had that larger than life thing going for him. It was
obviously difficult for him to deal with setbacks and I will admit to shedding
a few tears when I thought all was lost.
Today we have two nations, Syria and Iraq, once storied
cultures within the Persian Empire; lands that will always have ancient roots.
Iraq also contains those two great rivers mentioned above, the Tigris and the
Euphrates, which meet at Baghdad and once were part of a Biblical land called
Mesopotamia (meaning the land between two rivers). There is so much history
here in these lands which have lately become battlefields. If this is what oil did,
then oil has destroyed more than earth’s climate.
It is so hard to watch these great nations caught up in
petty sectarian and ethnic disputes. Instead of trying to restore the glory of
their more halcyon days, or rather than even learning to interact so that their
culture can stop self-destructing, just when we could use their help to unravel
the modern dilemmas, these two nations have devolved into endless power
struggles that are reducing these fine cultures to rubble. Once again there are
tears.
I am certain that the various sects and ethnic groups have
much more in common with each other than they will have if they let the world
in and learn contemporary tolerance and this commonality should be bringing
these groups together to give their country power to negotiate with other
modern nations and to live peacefully among them. Authoritarian personalities
arise in these two nations and may seem familiar from the past. There seems to
be almost a cult of the strong leader in Arabic nations, an attraction to bossy
leaders who are able to keep a lid on internal strife for a while, although
usually at a cost. If these nations could find a way to convene and keep a
representative government that tried to iron out differences and produce useful
negotiated policies, these nations might find themselves free from despots for
all time and ready for a new sort of Middle Eastern renaissance of those
ancient cultures that were once so influential on the world stage and so
beautiful to their citizens. Then they could surely find peace and a place
among modern nations. (I know our representative government is not much of a
role model right now with its divisive politics and its stalemate in our
Congress, but hopefully we will become unstuck eventually, and our representative
government has worked well for at least 250 years.)

We are in an environmental crisis, which was foreseen but
which we ignored for far too long. This crisis could turn our planet from a
natural paradise to a natural disaster. We need to clean up our oceans and we need
to figure out how to wean ourselves away from oil and fossil fuels. You folks
should have a say in these endeavors since any solutions will affect your
economies and since you may have to find new sources form which to derive your economic health in the
world of the future. Please get a grip Syria and Iraq; we need your assistance.
Stop warring within and bring that intelligence and creativity that gave us
Persia and Mesopotamia to the table with those who are ready to try to save our
planet.

By Nancy Brisson

Iraq Is On My Mind

It’s snowing. The first flakes of this winter season are falling quite energetically down giving my morning world that gray edge and white glaze that comes only with snow. But my mind is on Iraq, an ancient desert land with no white snowy scrim to soften, what must sometimes become the sun’s harsh glare. I am wishing that Iraq will not wallow in anger, and sadness, and hate (both for us and for each other). Now is the time to rebuild Baghdad, your beautiful city and all the other cities, towns, and villages in your devastated land; chose a new future that eschews sectarian discrimination and violence. You can become a modern nation in an ancient land. You could work together to make Iraq a place where you would all love to live. Although you feel hostile towards the various groups that make up your population, you all have a lot in common and part of what you have in common is that Iraq is your home. I am just some American nobody sitting watching the snow come down, but maybe from my faraway perch I have more perspective, and I have a lot of hope.
Hate, vengeance, jealousy – we all know these emotions, but we know they are not the ones that build a great culture and a productive life. We all know that to turn your war-torn nation back into the home you all love, you need to be constructive, not destructive. You seem to have a good leader now, without the sadistic turn of Mr. Hussein. Start there.
I am very happy that our soldiers are coming home. I never wanted them to have to go to Iraq in the first place, and I was very upset (I won’t use the adjectives that would express my true feelings at the time) when our soldiers got sent back for tour after tour. My heart breaks even now when it thinks of the American families who lost a loved one, or maybe more than one. The injuries our service men and women suffered are also heart-wrenching. War is truly hell.
I can’t help believing that some affection grew between the American soldiers and the Iraqi people. Maybe I’m very wrong, but I hope not. I believe it is impossible for people to live in such close proximity for so long without forming some kind of bond. Maybe hostility is at the forefront right now and I can hear the anger of the Iraqi people towards America. They had a viable lifestyle before we came, it was stable, daily life was livable, their beloved cities were intact. It is incredibly difficult not to give in to anger and despair but Saddam Hussein really was a terrible leader who ruled by fear and pathology. Rebuild, please. Show us your pride in your ancient country, but give it the modern twist that will help it survive in the 21st century. I am thinking that someday our soldiers may want to visit Iraq again and that they hope to find it remade. Meanwhile, Merry Christmas us, because so many (although not all) of our soldiers are home from war.
The secret and gi-normous Embassy; I don’t know enough to speak about this, but I will be listening. Sometimes my beloved America has a little difficulty walking the high road. I hope all our motives for this secret embassy are not greedy ones.

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