A Rose By Any Other Name

The blogger, Ali Eteraz, recently posted a reminiscence from a female American soldier in Iraq. She’s back home now and has a blog at LiveJournal. This posting about a small moment in Iraq affected me, because it reminded me of the hope we still have a duty to aspire to, and the nobility of the cause now compromised. It was an ordinary, stiflingly hot afternoon, and four American soldiers were given tea by an Iraqi family, headed by a mother with small girls. Over to the soldier:

"[W]e had to get moving anyway, so we started to get ready to go. And then Rania came running up to me, waving her hand to show me she had something for me.

It was a rose. It was at that perfect moment, bloomed and fresh, and so fragrant it filled the Humvee. (There’s another sentence I’ll never be able to use again.) I was touched beyond measure.

What this little girl could see from her doorstep was a bunch of sweaty probably irritable Americans ‚Äî and shell casings, torn branches, and debris from the battles. She wasn’t touched by any of it, even though her house had been. It was us she saw, and she saw us as potential friends. The little girl trusted adults to do the right thing. Her parents must be the most amazing people in the world.

I got out of the Hummer and saw her mother standing at the gate, waving good bye. There are some gestures that are universal —- putting your hand on your heart ought to say something. She held her hand over her heart and said her name, which I simply cannot reproduce. But then she took my hand and kissed my cheek, and I remembered other days, in France, where cheek kissing seems charming rather than affected. She could not know that I had only just lost my mother, and that her caress made me feel whole for just one second. I could know nothing more about her than her kindness and her gentle eyes. I kissed her cheek and we stood there and smiled at each other, and then we had to go.

When you think of Iraq, don’t think of terrorists or Saddam Hussein. Think of Rania and her mother’s hospitality, of the American soldiers sweating on her doorstep and sipping tea from little glasses on a ninety-degree day. Muktada Sadr does not represent Iraq and no matter how many people he kills or attacks, he never will.

Another small window into another world. Know hope.