Iraq Votes under Horrific Conditions

7 03 2010

Many of us sometimes struggle to get up in the morning to take part in our four-year responsibility of voting for a new president.

Photo by Ayman Oghanna for The New York Times A woman casting her vote inside a polling station in Kirkuk, Iraq.

We have to admire ourselves, or do we? -For supporting Iraq in their quest for democracy, are we? Since we did send our finest men and women over there to fight for just that, and now, -They, under horrific and unimaginable conditions and what seems to be a natural catastrophe, like we have seen lately, is simply the enemy, still manage to get out and vote. – What’s unimaginable conditions you ask. Well, let me explain.

Photo: Michael Kamber for The New York Times The scene of a rocket attack in Shaab neighborhood in Baghdad, one in a wave of attacks that hit cities across the country as voters headed to the polls in pivotal parliamentary elections. At least 38 people were killed and dozens more were wounded in Baghdad alone by the time polls officially closed at 5 p.m. local time.

Imagine: You stayed up all night after your daily intake of the Bravo Channel to review a little history on the internet on which candidate you will vote for tomorrow morning. You sit, at your computer saying to yourself how fortunate you are to cast a vote, to make a difference, to voice your civil responsibility; you feel patriotic, empowered and plainly, proud to be an American. So now you’re driving to your precinct, drinking your favorite Cup-of-Joe that you happily gave up half of your phone bill just so you could feel warm and fuzzy.

As you get to the voting polls, the volunteer says that you are not on the list, but after several minutes, she finds it under her own cup of warm and fuzziness, and she has a box of doughnuts to boot. So you stand in line eyeing the jelly cream filled wonders, behind a man who is wearing a brand new t-shirt with a sharpie drawn elephant stepping on a donkey. You smile, because he looks like he needs a haircut and a serious shave. You sip on your coffee. You take a deep breath thinking you can’t wait to walk around the office with a sticker that reads: ‘I Voted Today,’ then B-A-N-G! The roof of the building seems like Godzilla just tore it off just so he could shit inside, and that’s exactly what happens next. Mortar shells explode outside, turning your Volvo into a charred squeaking music box. Everyone is running for cover as the shelling continues, there is screaming everywhere. And the man with the colorful t-shirt is hiding under a desk, while you run out to see what the hell is going on. Several people are wounded and you run and help, there is blood everywhere. Then the National Guard shows up with an offensive team and surround and blockade the entire perimeter. After the shelling, the wounded are taken to John C. Lincoln Medical Center and the dead are carried away in makeshift ambulances.

Photo: Ayman Oghanna for The New York Times Women dressed in traditional Kurdish clothes wait to clear a female only checkpoint before voting in Kirkuk.

You realize that someone does not want you to vote. So after you are escorted to try again, you place the sticker on your shirt proudly as an MP takes you to work, because you know, that you were here to make a difference. You pass by your car and realize the severity of the event, but you are there. And people keep coming in droves, as the police and military do their best to protect the voting polls. In the distance, you can hear more shelling at other polling places. You try to call your wife, your husband, and families, but there is no civilian communication, so you are on your own, – just like you were inside that voting poll. Only you, and I repeat, – you were there to make a difference.

Photo: Michael Kamber for The New York Times Poll workers waited for voters at an empty polling station in Baghdad. Though many polling stations were empty early in the day as bombings rocked the city, election officials said voters turned out in large numbers later in the day.

This is exactly what Iraqis are doing right now as I write this blog. I think, we as Americans, should understand, that to some degree, a high level of admiration should go out to the people of this country who desire what we have. I believe, most of us have gotten too comfortable with the way we live, our warm and fuzziness; our right to speak, to act and react, to live any damn way we please, and that’s okay, as long as we consider the struggles of others, as we tread comfortably along.

Thank God, we don’t have to go to our voting polls under such dreadful conditions in order to protect our freedom and fundamental rights. – Maybe that’s why we should also take the time to thank a Veteran today, and everyday!




2 responses

20 03 2010

Hi Miguel, I was at my local polling place just a week ago, voting on a single bond issue. The place was very quiet. I love your description and juxtaposition. We aren’t likely to ever know the real value or cost of each vote we cast, but thank you for a reminder of how fortunate we are and the conditions in the world beyond our shores – Kyle (the jelly doughnuts were all gone when I got there)

23 03 2010

Thank you Kyle, I feel the same way, doughnuts or no doughnuts!

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