Yesterday the citizens of Iraq had their first free election in decades. Watching the footage on television, I was awestruck by the courage of these people. With the reality of suicide bombers in some cases, just around the corner, with the sound of gunfire as a constant background noise, with the tense, tight security and soldiers everywhere, with people being frisked routinely – even in one case I saw, a man in a wheelchair – it is a testimony to the human spirit that so many brave souls – men and women – dared to venture to the polls and make their choices, faced by a ballot with hundreds of names and a myriad of parties to consider. In case you didn’t happen to see it on CNN – There was, literally, dancing and singing in the street. Many voters brought their small children with them so that the children could witness this historic moment. Iraqi expatriates from all corners of the globe showed up at polls in fourteen nations to express their support for and solidarity with their country.
I had to ask myself if I would be so brave under similar circumstances. I honestly don’t know. I have never been deprived of my right to vote. I’ve been voting for some thirty-five years, and even if I didn’t like the ultimate outcome of an election, I knew I had the inalienable right to voice my opinion and to have my opinion counted. (Well, mostly, but that is a discussion for another day). I have never had my life threatened by the simple act of walking to my polling place. We don’t really know what we are capable of doing until we are faced with the situation.
As much as I have been opposed to the invasion of Iraq, and as little as I like many of the opinions and policies of the current administration, I have to admit that – for now, at least – it appears that the sacrifices of people of this country and others may have served a very high purpose. Whatever the true motivations for our military intervention in the first place, I cannot argue with what happened yesterday.
There was some violence, which is tragic. There may be more violence in the future, but hopefully, less and less. Free people tend to prosper, and prosperous people tend to love peace.
But there was a decided victory yesterday. No matter what the outcome of this election, the people of Iraq have come out in droves to defy terrorism and to stand up for their autonomy. That is a miracle.
© 2005, Robin Munson