I am stuck with words, a horrible feeling that feeling of being stuck . . . with words. Yet at the same time that gut feeling, like some stone, a rock lodged in my plexus needs to be dealt with, needs to be narrated, a short story maybe . . . that won’t give it justice.
I do what I can. I am not a passive observer, a detached spectator engaged in some scientific study . . . even though I try to use “reason,” like some safety pad, that will absorb the other’s pain. . . . and mine.
I like to consider myself a good listener. I am also curious, not because I want to invade the other’s person territory, but because I need a complete picture . . . this need for a complete picture is crucial for me. I am not sure how, or why, but I find it necessary . . . maybe by forming this complete picture in my mind, the narrative speaks by itself, effortlessly . . . like a river, like the Tigris, like the Euphrates . . . maybe also because I need to take that trip myself, with the narrator, down his and her memory lane, and in the process find mine, so all the pieces may fit into a “rational” whole. A process of finding meaning, of tying loose ends, of uncovering secrets, lost hopes, vanquished desires and unfinished grief. . . . but also a process of finding amid the pieces—the resolve, the resilience, the faith . . . like some invisible thread that has kept it all together, in the realm of . . . of Sanity . . . there is no better word . . . yes, a Sanity, that in retrospect, becomes a Life philosophy—an acceptance of Life as it is.
It is only there, in that process of listening and narrating, does one realize, the courage, bravery, fortitude, strength, force, of the ordinary Iraqi. I don’t think the word ordinary is befitting but short of a better word, I will keep it.
The very imperfect ordinary Iraqi, who has seen and experienced much, way too much . . . before 2003, after 2003 and until this very day . . . the hard times, the very hard times, the losses, the displacement, the separation, the abandonment, the neglect, the exile, the daily struggles, on all levels, plus the violence, an indescribable violence, an indescribable brutality, that has ripped through his being, and etched itself there, like some permanent sign post . . . yet she still manages, he still manages . . . to function, to interact, to create, to give, to receive . . .
We are not talking here of a couple of years period, we are talking decades . . . and that ordinary Iraqi is no blank virgin slate, she also has her own personal story, way before you appeared in her life . . . he also has his own “baggage” as you call it in your jargon . . . suitcases upon suitcase, trunk upon trunk of accumulated life traumas, shocks, losses, bereavement . . .
You take us for granted and we take ourselves for granted . . . none of you would have survived sane, none. None of you would have been able to function . . . I mean just look at you, over 60 years have elapsed since the 2nd World War and it still comes up in your discussions, yet so much is expected of us, encapsulated in that dirty phrase that you so often repeat—Get on with it.
Get on with it—if you had gone through a small percentage of what we go through, you would not even get by, let alone get on with it. But you are not what matters, you are trivia—irrelevant. What matters is us and our story . . . and you only appear in it to confirm what we already know about you. You are the Devil’s facilitator, so to speak . . . at the end of the story, like the Devil himself, you are nothing but a debased creature that rots in Hell. And your role ends there, miserably so.
You story does not interest me, but ours does and it is in these instances, when the story unfolds in its minutest details, that I see that invisible thread keeping it all together . . . an invisible thread you will never recognize, nor understand . . . because you simply don’t have it in you. An invisible thread that no amount of violence, of losses, of grief can severe, or cut, it is an umbilical cord, it is beyond gut, beyond viscera, beyond mind, beyond logic, something beyond your grasp, beyond your reach . . . not through invasions, bombs, guns, drones, jets, soldiers, contractors, mercenaries, missionaries, preachers, businessmen, marketeers, traders, politicians, parliaments, councils, committees, NGOs, development, progress, modernity, technology, satellite TV, computers or cell phones . . .
A something, beyond language, beyond words, that made the ordinary Iraqi in ancient times and that keeps him together today . . . a something that only an Iraqi can narrate—an invisible something that gives us resilience and in that resilience we find our resistance.
Copyright © 2012 Layla Anwar
Layla Anwar’s blog is An Arab Woman Blues—Reflections in a sealed bottle where this was first pubished.