You will be a blessing to others
This past November 8th, 2016, we Americans were blessed. After almost two years of argument and tension, we stepped into the voting booth and changed, without violence or terror, the president and political party that will govern our country.
This is no small accomplishment.
I say this not to celebrate the victory of one candidate over another, but rather to take stock of the great blessing that is our orderly and peaceful transfer of power.
That we as Americans are able to change political parties and personalities without violence or force is rarer than you might know. I have worked in many countries where this does not occur, (like Iraq and Syria) and I have gained a perspective about politics that many have not.
Whether you supported Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, or had no opinion about either, you need to know that as Americans we are blessed and fortunate.
And we must be a blessings to others in the world as well.
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(Above: A blessing to others: A former American soldier in Iraq who, while training young Assyrian men, never went anywhere without his AK-47 or Louis Vuitton belt. Copyright © Jeff Gardner, 2015)
“We need to be back in Iraq, and not just to kick the snot out of the Islamic State.”
Regardless of how you feel about the 2003 War in Iraq, the fact (and yes, I do mean to use that word, fact) stands that we, as Americans, changed the course of events in Iraq and the lives of its people, especially the Assyrian Christians.
When we arrived in Iraq in 2003, we told the Assyrians (and many other peoples) that we had come to make a change in their country. We certainly did make a change in Iraq, but not in the way that we promised. Our treatment of that country, that conflict and its people was short-sighted, politicized and damaging to all concerned. It was a shame.
As Americans, yes, we have our shortcomings, and yes, we make mistakes. But the idea, or maybe better “ideal,” of our political and social systems are a force for good, one that we should spread throughout the world.
Back in 2015 I had the great privilege to meet and watch a small group of American men who decided to step forward and help in Iraq. I met them in a military base near the Iraqi city of Chamchamal, training what would become the Nineveh Plain Protection Units. These Americans were all soldiers (but I am not), and many of them had seen heavy fighting in Afghanistan. From those experiences they knew, in ways that most of us do not, that a system in which the minority is protected from the tyranny of the majority, in which the rule of law was the rule of the day is a better system, a better way to live as a people and a nation.
All of them were in Iraq at considerable personal expense and risk, and the each gave themselves selflessly to the task of teaching young Assyrians how to stand up and fight for their people and their nation. Conditions in the camp were rough – the weather was cold and miserable, the camp food was awful and the power was out most of the day – but the whole experience was incredible.
I took many images during my stay in that camp. Among them was a series of one of the American trainers who wished to remain nameless and faceless. He was there, he told me, for the people of Iraq, and not to get noticed or famous. I admired his motivation, his desire to do something for others because of what it might do for them, not what it might do for him. That, in my opinion, is also a characteristic that has made America a blessings to the world.
We need to be back in Iraq, and not just to kick the snot out of the Islamic State. Why? Because we have a governmental system that works better than Iraq’s and we need to show them, over a long period of time, how peace and prosperity work; what they look like politically and socially. Nothing short of this long term educational exposure will transform the Middle East.