It has never been my intention to draft any essay or thoughts for post in such an informal fashion. And yet, I am compelled to do just that, while asking for your pardon. As I write it is after 1:30am here in New Jersey, and my thoughts remain with my Iraqi brother. I have never met Mahdi Salah al Hashemi, unless one would consider the social network a method by which two people are formally introduced. Regardless I have never shaken his hand or conversed with him over mint tea, however more than anything or anyone else, he is on my mind with such immense intensity that it is impossible to sleep. Insomnia, uncontrollable sadness often with, and often without reason, and rumination have long plagued me thus being unable to sleep is familiar. This time it is something new, something different.
I am in the end of my thirty-fourth year as the New Year approaches, and my nation’s economy is in shambles. The elections have ended, but the thousands of political commercials and pundits I choose to watch on television have provided a reminder of the reasons of the unemployment rate and trillions in the national budget deficit. The echoes of Schurz and Bryan cited in my article The Paralyzing Influence of Imperialism; the attacks of September 11, 2001; and the American response that has manifested itself in the War on Terror and a current $695 billion dollar expenditure on defense and the machinery of war making. In 2003, I watched Shock and Awe on MSNBC and CNN, but I never connected with one of those people, my brothers, and sisters on the ground, until Mahdi Salah al Hashemi.
I have no love for Sadaam Hussein, and Wallahi Al-Theem, whether right or wrong-and may Allah Forgive me if I incur His Anger in saying so-I am glad Sadaam and his minions are gone. However, the confusion in which Mahdi is mired-the confusion of his words, his phrases, his sentences is what has moved me so. ‘Does Iraq live in the time where the inevitable has become strange, even odd? I began to reminisce of my days of existential questioning, of self-conflict, attempting to discover a path by which I could enter a society I could not understand or grasp. Now there is a new society, a new language, new habits, new concepts, new life, and more to inhale…Death is certainty. Everyone must eventually, inevitably die! I don’t know, but have the death scales been altered? If you lose someone, you love in an explosion, a suicide bombing, a blast, or by the bullet, would it be easier to wrestle the pain if it was a terminal illness? Memories don’t rule death…We have had enough of today, so we do not wish for tomorrow. Tomorrow is a mirage in the desert, a desert that eats everything without clemency. A desert called my Homeland.’ I am one of the 18 million or so Americans that either has no job or is severely under-employed. I, with a degree in Political Science from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, am anxiously waiting for a call from a convenience store in order to fill a position working the overnight shift so that my three daughters will be able to eat, have clothing and medicine, play with toys they see at Wal-Mart, etc…Again the Paralyzing Influence of Imperialism is ever present, and my countrymen have just elected more people to the United States Congress who campaigned on an Islamophobic platform and on the promise to make the so-called Bush Tax Cuts permanent, which will add another $4 trillion dollars to the same National Budget deficit these same victorious politicians claim to despise with such fervor and passion.
While my nation dropped the Weapons of Somewhat Contained Destruction-the WSCD-that we have stockpiled in the thousands in military bases all over the globe; while my nation dropped those weapons on his nation, Mahdi and I are both Muslim and both have had enough of today, so we don’t wish for tomorrow. I have never lost anyone I know or love in an explosion or a suicide bombing, and Alhamdulillah for this. I am not sure I would really know what to do. I have seen my share of pain and suffering, but I believe his mental, emotional, existential anguish is far greater than that of my own. I couldn’t imagine receiving phone call after phone call: Isma’il, your nephew Ayden was killed in a bombing at Safeway…your Godmother was killed in a roadside bombing…your ex-wife and two of your daughters were shot in the crossfire of insurgents and US troops, and Hana will never walk again, and I seek refuge in Allah from all of these calamities. I imagine that I would do what so many others have done; what the Tea Baggers would certainly do: I would grab rifles and pistols and begin shooting at the people I blamed-the Occupier. And the more of THEM I killed, the more of them I wounded, the higher the price of the conflict would become for their Government and their citizens.
Yet, why I have so much respect and admiration for Mahdi is that he has, in his aloof and floundering mindset, he was able to befriend a foreigner who had the audacity to tell him to be happy, to feel Blessed because he was a member of a generation that could possibly re-create Iraq. Mahdi emailed me a few weeks ago that he is in the process of obtaining a Master’s Degree. Mahdi is behaving like a Muslim with Fire in his veins and Shaytain all around him, but he will not give in to hate. He will not, using a Star Wars reference, cross over to the Dark Side. He uses the mind-confused, perplexed, dazed, floundering, surrounded by suffering and death-he uses this mind to seek knowledge, and does what he can for himself, for Iraq, and for Islam. Today, Mahdi is my hero, and I am happy on whatever level to call him a friend.
Verily, Allah is The Most Merciful. We are living in very dark times, but we must find solace in our ra’kas and in the simply sublime reality that we are Muslims.
Isma'il ibn Bilal