I was eight years old living in Dakar Senegal When the first gulf war started. I was too young and relationally removed from either party to comprehend the human cost and psychological impact of war. Instead, I found the hostilities rather entertaining; who was the bad guy? Who was stronger? Who would win? These were the questions I pondered and looked for answers in the news. My feelings about the USA, Iraq and the middle east broadly speaking, had been conditioned by my parents and those closest to me. Soon, I developed the same biases against “them”. First, these Americans; relentless modern-day imperialists involved in every single conflict across the globe. Second, these Middle easterners; constantly in conflict with one another due to tribalism and sectarianism. There was no good guy in the story; they were all flawed antagonists.
Two decades later, God’s humor struck. I became a US citizen and married a middle easterner. I proudly joined two families I once considered “Them”. Proximity and relationships transformed me and my perspectives. “them”, the flawed antagonists, became family with strengths, qualities, flaws, legitimate concerns and needs. As the USA and Iran ready themselves to fight, I gasp, and tremble at the inevitable carnage. I cringe at the propaganda machine that dehumanizes the “enemy”. I hear the rationalizations and justifications of actions by some, the objections and criticisms by others. But from where I sit I can only weep because I see no enemy; only family. And when family fights, no one wins. Additionally, as goes the old Swahili adage, when elephants fight it is the grass that suffers.