What lessons can people learn from being in a war? Part VI

International Outlook

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The war changed me. When I arrived in Iraq, I was 19. At that point, they were the bad guys, I was one of the good guys. What more was there to understand? Then one day came around where I asked myself on a cold night in Iraq somewhere around the winter of 2005, what am I doing here? Not in the sense of why was I serving my country, not even in the sense of what was America doing here. I mean why is it that people from this part of the world were the way they were that they would willingly fly a plane to their doom just to make a point? What was the motivation of these people? What did they care about? Why would they kill each other, as I have pointed out, in far greater numbers than us? Where the f*** am I?

It was on that night that, for the first time, I realized how drastically my educational upbringing had failed me. It appears that having a few years of government and world history classes ran mostly by individuals who were more concerned with recent sports scores, had not prepared me with the necessary knowledge to tackle such dilemmas of geopolitical importance. Back then, only 10 years ago, I’m ashamed to say that I had no idea the answers to most of these questions. It was because of this, that part of my free time became dedicated to correcting the holes in my understanding of the world.

I studied the history of the region, it’s religions, yes (plural) religions and the politics of the region. Only now could I tell you the significance of the first empire there and how that began the bronze age. Only after the war could I tell you about the march of Islam and its evolution, as well the effects it has had everywhere else. In part, much of my spare time has been dedicated to this continuing endeavour to learn and understand the region I once lived. Now, only after years of study, do I consider myself a good enough first source of information on the subject, that I would feel confident enough to give people a good place to get started in their search for discovery. Because of this I have been asked to answer often on subjects of Iraq and more recently, the invasion of Islamic jihadists to the country: Who is responsible for the mess in Iraq today?

It was only because of the war that I realized how vital an understanding of the world at large was. In helping others better understand how it all works together I realized how much many other people experienced the same ignorance in their education as I had. This motivated me to become a freelance writer and a history teacher. Now, every day I get to tell kids about what is going on outside of our sleepy little hometown and how it all fits together, because of the experiences they know well that I have had. The kids who didn’t care about anything are now asking me about the Sunni, Shia divide and each of my students can provide an up to date play-by-play of the recent battle for Tikrit. That may bother you, but none of mine are going to wake up one day unaware of the world as I did. I’m very proud of that.

The original problem I ran into though, still exists; people in general have no idea what is going on beyond our borders. This is true, yet people continually weigh in on topics which they have absolutely no clue about. A friend of mine once shared something with me that doesn’t exactly explain the phenomena, but makes a clear picture of how it works. It’s called Mount Stupid.

There just seems to be this misguided sense of the superiority of self in all things, that people think their expertise, be it on 1980’s hair metal bands, grants their opinions merit in the same field as one who has first hand experience in the matter in which we are speaking, say, geopolitics as they apply to the Middle Eastern conflict. You’ve heard stuff on Iraq from your favorite blog or even from some nice woman who lost her son in Iraq on the news. You’re an expert on the topic now. This is Mount Stupid.

If we are speaking on the subject of 80’s hair bands, please lead the way, but if we are speaking about the evolution of the Ba’ath Party and its influence on modern politics of the Middle East (which is pretty important FYI) and your knowledge of Steven Tyler’s vocal range doesn’t seem particularly germane to the subject, that’s because it isn’t. Shut up and listen. You might learn something and it might improve your ability to handle the future. Maybe, just maybe, you will no longer be part of the problem – people who know very little about things, but make irrational (in hindsight) demands on those who do. As I have said before, a person who knows very little but says things that are dumb can be ignored. En masse though, those same dumb statements get validated, and then they become policy.

Don’t think that last point is valid? You think your opinion of the Middle East matters? Think Mount Stupid is just a funny joke that doesn’t apply to you? My active followers will recognize these questions from my recent answer to Is spreading democracy in the Middle East a bad idea? Hopefully they can shed some light on it. Let’s start off easy:

Be honest with yourself and tell me which one of these countries is Iraq. We’ve only been at war there since the early 90’s, you should know this by now. You can click to expand the image.

Can’t do it? Not sure?

How about this one? What information is being shown to you? What is the importance of the different shades of green in this picture?

Had to consult your Googleviser?

Let’s try this one. Take a good, hard long look at it to see if you can figure out what it displays. What do you think the green areas represent in this one?

Think you know the answer?

….

….

You really think you know what it means?

Really sure about that? Here is the map’s key:

Yes, that is a map displaying where and how often women undergo, or are forced into enduring Female genital mutilation. Now, so that we are clear, FGM is a cultural problem and governments have a hard time governing something that is traditionally done behind closed doors and by unlicensed practitioners. I, however, personally believe, as would many of you, that in a population where women are extended and ensured equal representation as men, that those new voters would probably vote on the side of orgasm rather than being stitched together at the age of three in some barbaric ritual to help gratify male pleasures decades later. This single practice is responsible for the majority of women being sexually assaulted in the Middle East, forcing the procedure on adults who didn’t receive it as young girls. As sure as anything in my life, I know that once outlawed, they would never choose to go back to that old status quo.

If any of that last segment left you with the feeling that perhaps you don’t understand the issues surrounding the Middle East, maybe you shouldn’t voice your opinion on it quite so much. You should, however, seek out and gain knowledge and understanding from those who do have such understanding. Your quiet will literally save lives and ensure the quality of life for others.

The war opened my eyes to important things that are going on which need to be understood. They need to be talked about by people who have experience and those people need to not be drown out by the flood of people who just don’t agree. War gave me a world mindset that most Americans simply don’t have, because they don’t need it survive. We can get by our whole lives without ever truly concerning ourselves with what is going anywhere else. When we do though, important things happen. I wish more Americans cared about what happens beyond their shores without descending to tired and inaccurate stereotypes handed down to them for years. We live in the internet age, and for goodness sake, a third of the people reading this answer will probably be in India. I don’t know how to make others really take the note I do about the world, but I know the war, and being a warrior, did it for me.


Thanks for reading. This blog is supported entirely by fan donation. If you would like to support the author, please visit: Support Jon Davis creating Short Stories and Essays in Military, Science Fiction and Life.

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