Letter from Iraq: kids always know

 Maxine is a member of the Christian Peacekeeper Team in Iraq Part of being in Iraq these days for me includes trying to figure out a way not to be here - in other words, trying to disguise my identity so I won't be targeted for kidnapping, or worse, as a foreigner. The funny thing about this is that as I walk down the street in my hijab and my Iraqi-looking clothes, the kids always immediately recognize that I'm not a local. They stare at me and say "Hello, hello" and "What's your name?" using the little English they know. The adults, on the other hand, rarely seem to notice that I'm from abroad. In fact, often they speak to me in Arabic assuming that I know the language. How do the kids know? What gives them the insight that is lacking in the adults? Kids take things at face value. They haven't yet developed preconceived notions about things; they don't have expectations, and so their eyes are wide open to see things as they really are. We adults often lose that clarity by making assumptions based on our experiences and our knowledge. We don't usually recognize that we are making assumptions because it seems so apparent to us that what we think we see must be the truth. The other more perilous problem for adults is that we tend to see what we want to see, often to our own detriment. The constitutional referendum was held here in Iraq recently. President Bush and others declared it a success because there was little violence on that day, and apparently a good voter turnout. Living here, I see it differently. I'm not sure success is based on whether or not there were violent attacks. Does that alone make it a success? To me, it feels like the quiet before the storm. Was voter turnout good? Even if it was, does that mean that the general public understood what they were voting on, given the fact that changes were being made to the constitution as late as three days before the referendum? Just because we want to see progress in forming a democratic Iraqi government doesn't make it so. We desperately want to see that progress, to find an end to the untenable situation we find Americans find ourselves in within Iraq. Perhaps the best way around this would have been to be 'childlike' when the messages were being delivered to us that Iraq was a threat, and war was the only way to deal with the problem. Are we brave enough to have our eyes wide open when the drums of war start beating again? Christian Peacemaker Teams is an ecumenical violence-reduction program with roots in the historic peace churches. Teams of trained peace workers live in areas of lethal conflict around the world. CPT has been present in Iraq since October, 2002. For more information see: visit www.cpt.org.

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