A Democrat from Iraq Observes Democracy in America

“24 Steps to Liberty” is a blog written by an anonymous 28-year-old Baghdad man. At various points during the war, I’ve checked in on his observations about the fighting and the politics in Iraq–and I would recommend his archives to you.   Recently, “24” moved to California to attend journalism school — I haven’t found the post where he says where he’s going, but he might be keeping that a secret, too.  For a class assignment he wrote a report on “America’s Midterm Elections.” It’s more than a little sour, but I thought it was a good reflection of how politics feels to a lot of Americans now, in ways we probably don’t even register emotionally.

A few months after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, rumors suggested that Iraqis would soon vote “democratically and freely” for the first time in decades. We were confused. The only experience we had in voting was in two referendums to decide whether Saddam Hussein should stay the “only leader and the hero of the Arab nation” in Iraq. That, of course, was more of a joke_ and a day-off_ than a true political experiment.

In the months leading to the January 2005 elections in Iraq, political campaigns flooded our country. Politicians rallied to sell themselves and we, Iraqis, listened carefully, spending hours analyzing their positions. When many risked their lives to vote on Election Day, we were at least informed.

Democracy is exhausting, but twice more, Iraqis have taken it seriously—for the constitutional referendum in October 2005 and the parliamentary elections in mid-December.

And, this is where our two democracies differ sharply. Here, in the full democracy of the United States, where Americans have lost thousands of men and women to violence around the world and the “war on terrorism,” it’s shocking how few citizens make use of freedom of speech and “democracy.”

A few weeks ago, I attended a forum in Tracy, California in which Democrat Jerry McNerney, and the incumbent, Republican Congressman Richard Pombo presented their platforms. During the session, people applauded their candidates, booed each other and showed nothing but stubbornness. No one demonstrated any willingness to listen and to think about the other side. At the end of the session, I failed to understand the point of having the debate-like session.

I understand that the polls suggest the Democrats will take control of the House of Representatives, but I find it hard to believe and don’t.

If the forum in Tracy was any indicator, democrats will always vote democrat, and republicans will remain with their party. The only chance for a change remains with the few who are open to voting for the other party and in my judgment, it’s too few to make a difference.

( snip)

The political debates and discussions we see now, I believe, will change nothing.

People have already made up their minds. They already know who they will support. No matter what mistakes were made by the republicans, very few of their supporters, if any, are going to the polls on November 7 to demonstrate their anger and vote for a democrat.

The nearing midterm election in Nov. 7 is nothing but a “democratic” practice people will enjoy, especially those who just turned 18 _ because it is there first time to toss the paper into the box or press the screen.

Even if the democrats won the mid term elections this year, those hoping for a political change in the United States have to wait until the next presidential elections. It is then when the average American will have another chance to make a difference. Another chance to be a decision maker.

That last point is basically right. As Mickey Kaus has pointed out, the results of tomorrow’s election will have a number of perverse effects. It is Bush Administration’s mismanagement of the war that will cost them one or two houses of Congress, but after the vote, Bush will still be in charge of Iraq policy.

A Democratic win is difficult to associate with a specific policy change — because the party hasn’t recommended one. Check out this ad from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. All it calls for is “to ask the hard questions about Iraq.” Believe me, that’s more than enough reason to justify a change in party control — in order to hold the Administration’s feet to the fire. But the demand is so painfully modest — a seat at the table for the opposition party. The ad’s visual atmosphere says “we should pull out,” but the text does not say or imply that.

I don’t think either party knows what to do now.  And yet, this election is being billed as “a watershed.”  Perhaps history will show it to be one.  But who can possibly say now?

____________________________

“24” has good things to say about America. He’s clearly glad to be here. You might want to check out another post of his: “Ten Things I Hate and Twelve I Love About America.” That’s a net plus of two! First, though, from the “hate” side of the ledger:

* People don’t cover their mouths when they yawn.
* They don’t give their seats to elderly or women in buses and underground trains.
* When they hear about people hit or abused in Iraq, they call it torture. But when the American armed forces and the CIA do the same thing, they call it “abuse!”
* Newspapers call those who killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis “insurgents.” But when someone plans an attack inside the U.S., even if only planned and was failed, he/she is a “terrorist.”
* They burp loud in public.
* They send their parents to the elderly houses or leave them to live alone when they are old and incapable of taking care of themselves.
* They don’t have or tell jokes.
* A husband and a wife are not one. They are separate entities and children are taught to grow into the same thing.

And now for some “love.”

* People are nice and helpful.
* I am free to do, eat and wear whatever I want as long as I don’t offend others.
* I can walk freely in the streets as late as I want [I hear about crimes and shootings, but I don’t care]
* People listen to you and always try to advise.
* Transportation inside the cities is really good. It makes my life so much easier.
* People love and cherish their feel of belongingness to their soil and they are proud of their flag.

* Education system is great, for those who can afford it.
* They call their political leaders “stupid” and keep reelecting them!
* I don’t hear explosions and don’t wake up on the IED-alarm-clock everyday like I used to in Baghdad.

Don’t forget to vote!

One thought on “A Democrat from Iraq Observes Democracy in America

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