July 15, 2009

III Years..


Today am celebrating 3 years of blogging. I am not quite sure that the word "celebrate" is an adequate one. Actually, this blog - Arab Woman Blues, was and is a far cry from any celebration.

If I am to be perfectly honest - I will have to admit it out loud, that those 3 years of blogging - writing/composing more like it, have depleted and exhausted me.

I never envisioned that blogging would be such a tiring endeavour. Perhaps blogging in itself is not - but the material I deal with - is. The material being Iraq and her occupation and the thousands of tragedies and woes that this occupation gave and keeps giving birth to.

But there is more to it than just dealing with "controversial material" and occupations. And as I am writing this, I am digging in my being, to see where the exact cause of my fatigue lies.

It lies in the fact that I am very emotionally involved with the "subject matter". It lies in the fact that it has and still touches me so deeply to the extent that it has radically changed me in the process...

Radically changed me, transformed me, metamorphosed me...I don't know if it is for the better or the worse. I shall suspend all personal self-judgement. All I know is that I am changed.

Again, I dig deep into my being and ask myself the question - how where you changed ya Layla ? In what way ?

I am not sure I can find the exact words - all I feel right now is a lump of a stone stuck in my throat, and two silent streams flowing down my face...

I believe that anyone who has been very intimately involved with Her - with Iraq - will know exactly what am talking about it. They will not need words. They have experienced it. And they need not be Iraqis either...

When I meet with other Iraqis - the subject of the occupation and destruction of Iraq almost always resurfaces, but we keep the emotions at bay...We tuck them away in some corner of our selves, bolt them up behind iron doors, lock them up in sealed cages and safety vaults...

I often wondered why we do that, the way we do it. Partly it has to do with the "stoic" character of the Iraqis, which is sometimes mistaken for hardness...but there is more to it...

I think that if we let those dams open, we will flood ourselves and all those around us. I really think that we will flood ourselves and those around us with an infinite sadness...like the Tigris and Euphrates swelling up and inundating the whole land...

Curiously, I also feel that if WE did that - let it all flow and let it take its natural course...the two rivers of Iraq will not dry up the way they are now...

For me, these two rivers where civilization flourished by their banks are drying up precisely because WE have not let IT flow the way it must and the way it should have...

This is all a symbolic sign. Some will understand, others won't.

Have they managed to break us in the process ? This is a question I often ponder...

I don't believe so. Maybe in the immediate sense, but not in the long run...

I understand the pauses, the taking stock, the recuperating of energies and forces... after all, take me for an example -- just blogging about Iraq has exhausted me so much in 3 years, can you imagine what living under a 7 year violent, brutal occupation does, where there is not one day of respite ?!

For those of us in exile - we feel the tremors, shaking us, like a daily earthquake, forcing us to daily reconstruct/reinvent our sense of self - along new paradigms, new parameters...constantly ripping our illusions or what is left of them - away, forever shifting our references, questioning our values and our beliefs - a shock and awe that has indelibly marked us, like with a seal made of hot forged iron...

These are powerful daily philosophical questions that we are forced to, at least grapple with, whether we like it or not...whether we want it or not.

Again, those who know will understand...

Let me give you a concrete example. The other day, I was with an Iraqi friend of mine. We were chatting about this and the other and somehow the "subject matter" came up.

S. said matter of factly, in an almost benign tone - as if, this is something naturally expected, something of a truth that everyone will relate to...
She just said - I have changed so much in such a short time...

So I asked her in which way ? she replied - I just see things and people differently now. So again I probed - how so ? And she just shrugged and said - I am not sure how so, but I know it is so. So I asked her when did that happen ? She paused and said - since 2003...

I can safely say that many of us have had this shift of -- not sure what to call it. Shift of perception, references, parameters, values, beliefs...the shift of shock and awe -- and many of us have been changed in the process...

What has enhanced it and made it worse is -- the indifference, the lies, the deception, the neglect, the abandonment, the covering up, the rationalizations, the justifications, the callousness....over and above the violence that we have experienced. A multi-faceted violence, that has touched and affected every aspects of our lives.

And in this instance, I will allow myself to speak for the great majority of Iraqis because I know that they feel the same way I do.

And on a personal level, as if the above was not sufficient, more was added, insofar as this blog is concerned - more insults, more slanders, more threats, more hackers, more viruses...

More and more...

Iraq is an extreme case, and this blog has also attracted extremes...I have met online, some of the best people around - very few of them but they are there, and some of the worst vilest characters...and there are too many of them...

This also taught me greatly about human beings and has reinforced my "shock and awe" shift...

During those 3 years of blogging, I have also come to terms with my love/hate relationship with Iraqis themselves.

I have come to know them, some of them at least, under a different light. I have come to see their political hypocrisy, their tribal mind set, their sectarianism, their treachery, their envy and jealousies, their political opportunism and also their deceitfulness. Of those aspects - I am not proud at all.

I have also learned much about the dirty games of politics : the parasites, the users, the deniers, the enablers, the criminals, the psychopaths, the opportunists, the ego trippers, the leeches of causes, the hypocrites, the perfidious, the depraved...etc...

But I kept blogging...

Partly for personal reasons - my own way to "process" my new reality, to render things coherent in a background of chaos, to retain a sense of meaning, to fight off the nihilism that this occupation has engendered...and the only way for me to do so was by denoucing the brutality, the madness, the insanity, the evilness...exorcising it from my own being and seeing it for what it is...naming it, pointing at it, filtering through the lies...groping and grabing threads of truth wherever and whenever I could find them...

Has my blogging/writing achieved much ? I don't know. I can't answer this question.

Many a times I have really wanted to stop. The blog made me sick. At times I could not even bear look at it. Not even bear re-read anything I wrote. Many a times, I was taken by this urge to simply delete it. Erase my name and myself from here...

Many a times I wanted to close the door for good. Just shut it, switch it off, hit the cancel and escape buttons on my keyboard. Change names and write about something else...something totally unrelated...something normal, something ordinary, something less gut wrenching...less heart breaking...something less painful...

But She would not let me.

However much I tried to shut the door in Her face, she would knock again...sometimes as a morning visitor, sometimes as a beggar, sometimes as a wounded citizen, sometimes as prisoner crying for help, sometimes as an orphaned child, sometimes as a widow, sometimes as a prostitute, sometimes as an artist, sometimes as a lost woman with no compass...and sometimes as a dead body in a funeral procession...

However much I wanted to let go of Her, She would not let go of me...

I have come to accept our symbiotic relationship...I have come to accept this umbilical chord that I cannot sever...

I have also come to understand and accept that Iraqis as people, will come and go...we are here today, tomorrow, gone. Such is the fragile state of being human.

But Iraq will not go anywhere...It is here to stay. She is here to stay.

I have also come to deeply believe that there are no chosen people at all - there are however, chosen lands. And I firmly believe that Iraq is a chosen land. I need not provide any proof for that. It is self-evident.

I believe the land of Iraq is the womb that gave birth to the first civilization known to mankind and it will do so again and again...

For me, God's womb is Iraq.

And nothing will stop that womb...nothing will stop that river...

So my faith is there, in this womb, in this river...and in the Iraqi character that is made of this river's mud -- ancient, resilient, wise, strong, proud, dignified, creative, brilliant and generous in its giving...as it has done since time immemorial...


And therein lies my hope and my salvation.


Painting : Iraqi female artist Lina Al-Nasiri. Inspired from a Motherhood painting from ancient Ashur/Mesopotamia. Series - Iraqi fingertips, 2009.