Sep 262011
 
Authors: Brooke Lake

War can define a country’s legacy: economically, politically and even environmentally. But it should never define the entirety of the native people in terms of worth.

As critical and intellectually motivated university students perusing professional aspirations, we must use the skills we have been paying thousands of dollars for to see beyond the legacy of war.

What if we stopped using popular media sources as our sacred text for defining “good” and “evil”?  We are in fact all a part of a global community, and our differences can either define a great line or draw a circle around us. What are we as the CSU community supposed to think about Iraq when the only projected sources of information are ones coming from a bias, political, impersonal, depressing and often ignorant news sources focused on terrorism and war?

As a part of the local community here, I feel it my civic duty to share, rather than preach at you, my personal knowledge and insight about my best friends who just so happened to be Iraqi.  

In a socially and culturally intensive summer program through the Iraqi and U.S. Embassy, I had an opportunity to develop deeply personal friendships with dozens of Iraqis my age.  

I want to set the record straight: the people of Iraq do not ride camels to work. My friends have iPads, iPhones, dishwashers and a Facebook.

I have respect and admiration for them in regards to academics, family values, hospitality and loyalty to friendship.  This has urged me to write an article that will bring you pride in your global brothers and sisters, rather than disdain for a group of people we as Americans are encouraged to alienate and despise.  

The family loyalty and adoration of my Iraqi friends astound me and give me beautiful examples of what I want for my own family one day.  For instance, my friend Ammar, a medical student in Baghdad, took six weeks out of his summer vacation to travel with his father to Jordan –– the closest place where he could receive the surgery needed.  Ammar unquestioningly stood by his father’s side before, during and after the surgery, taking care of family before his own needs and desires.  

Such selflessness extends to the area of friendship as well.

When I say they would give me the shirt off their back if I asked for it, I am speaking in literal and figurative terms. My friend Laith actually gave me his shirt without question when I facetiously asked for it at a Wyoming rodeo.

And despite a nine-hour time difference and inconsistent Internet, my best friend Jumana, who lives in the Kurdistan, always makes an effort to invest in my life. Thanks to Skype, we are able to talk for hours sharing stories of heartbreak and celebration.  

In addition, I am told relentlessly when I travel to Iraq that my friends will not allow me to pay for myself.  They insist on taking care of my expenses, not to mention I have no option but to stay in their homes and eat their mother’s dolma.  

Such extravagant generosity is all a part of the beautiful social customs of the Iraqi people.
My Iraqi friends are among the most brilliant and academically outstanding students who inspire me daily with my own studies.

Mohammed, a resident of Basra, is among the top medical students in all of Iraq.  He never gives up, and healways aims for perfection.  Just listening to him speak about medicine makes you excited.  Moreover, he never overlooks a friend in need, always ready to help in any way possible.
 
I realize I am speaking in superlatives; however, I am coming at you with honest personal experience.

At the very least, my goal in writing this article is to encourage you to use your skills of critical thinking and compassion and to delineate the malicious intentions and acts of a small group of radicals from an entire population.

Yes, my Iraqi friends have grown up with war, but they do not allow such evil to define them.  Instead, they pursue higher education, love, meaningful friendships and work towards improving their country.

Despite a lifetime of differences, I have come to realize whether Iraqi or American, Christian or Muslim, male or female, we are more similar than anything. What divides us is our ignorance and our inability to see the overlap.

Brooke Lake is a junior biochemistry major. She can be reached at letters@collegian.com. 

 Posted by at 4:30 pm

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