Healing the Tiger…in Egypt and in Each of Us

30 01 2011

COMPELLING. CAPTIVATING. We CONNECT with the drama unfolding in Eqypt. Why? In the U.S., we sit in our cozy homes and have the freedom to make a living (although many of us are admittedly struggling with that right now), the freedom to make decisions about our lives, and the freedom to speak our minds. We complain that the government is too big or not doing enough and yet our government has checks and balances with the three branches of government; no one person can dictate entirely what happens in the country and no one person can rob the country and the people in it of funds and assets. We are blessed and we so often take it for granted.

We are riveted to the stories of those who don’t have the freedoms we have…people like those protesting in the streets of Eqypt. Perhaps we are trying to imagine what it must be like to have lived 30 years under an oppressive regime. Perhaps we are stunned to see the police so powerless and the army for the most part just standing by, supporting the people, and allowing them to protest. Perhaps we are also stunned that a few people who take to the streets to protest would be gunned down and that the Internet and cell phone service would be shut down for an entire country. This would not happen here. No one person has that much power.

The country and people of Egypt seem to be suffering from societal trauma. Dr. Peter A. Levine, author of “Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma,” says that:

Citizens in our inner cities randomly destroy property and life as the effects of years of accumulated stress, trauma, hostility, and economic oppression combust.

Credit: Dominic Harness

Dr. Levine talks of how an animal in the wild handles being attacked by another animal. It can fight back, flee, or freeze (play dead) until the attacking animal loses interest and then run away. The last option of freezing is what happens to people when their options are taken from them.

Unfortunately, human beings…unlike a tiger in the wild…don’t know how to shake off the trauma physically after freezing and we wind up internalizing the trauma sometimes for decades. Perhaps the traumatized part in each of us (for whatever reason…child abuse, a surgery, an accident, a divorce, a job loss, losing our home, the loss of a child, returning from war, etc.) connects with the people of Eqypt. They are acting out the effects of decades of trauma and woundedness and we get it.

Dr. Levine says that:

Trauma cannot be ignored. It is an inherent part of the primitive biology that brought us here. The only way we will be able to release ourselves, individually and collectively, from re-enacting our traumatic legacies is by transforming them through renegotiation.

He goes on to say that:

Transformation requires a willingness to challenge your basic beliefs about who you are. Through transformation, the nervous system regains its capacity for self-regulation. Our emotions begin to lift us up rather than bring us down. They propel us into the exhilarating ability to soar and fly, giving us a more complete view of our place in nature. Our perceptions broaden to encompass a receptivity and acceptance of what is, without judgment. We are able to learn from our life experiences. Without trying to forgive, we understand that there is no blame. We often obtain a surer sense of self while become more resilient and spontaneous. This new self-assuredness allows us to relax, enjoy, and live life more fully. We become more in tune with the passion and ecstatic dimensions of life.

Perhaps this is happening with the people in Egypt; they seem to be feeling more confident and more hopeful and are transforming as a people. We are watching history in the making, unfolding before our eyes. We see the possibility of what happens when people unite in a common cause to help lift each other and a nation up. It gives us hope as individuals that we can lift ourselves up out of our own personal traumas and transform our own personal and collective lives.

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SLAP HER: Advice at a Saudi Domestic Violence Seminar

11 05 2009

Judge Hamad Al-Razine advised men to slap their wives at a recent seminar in Saudi Arabia on domestic violence. Here’s what he said:

If a person gives SR 1,200 [$320] to his wife and she spends 900 riyals [$240] to purchase an abaya [the black cover that women in Saudi Arabia must wear] from a brand shop and if her husband slaps her on the face as a reaction to her action, she deserves that punishment.

Credit: AFP Getty Images

Credit: AFP Getty Images

Women in the audience booed…and rightly so. Arab News, which reported this, said that Al-Razine was trying to explain why domestic violence has increased recently when he made the comments. Al-Razine said that women and men shared responsibility, but also said that “nobody puts even a fraction of blame on women.” 

According to Arab News, Al-Razine: 

…also pointed out that women’s indecent behavior and use of offensive words against their husbands were some of the reasons for domestic violence in the country.

I lived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for 14 months many years ago. Every time I see stories like this, it makes me angry. This is yet another example of men…and this time validated by a judge…using violence to subjugate women. Women have little opportunity to be indecent in this country. They wear veils everywhere they go. They cannot socialize, attend classes, work, or even be seen with a man who is not their husband. When friends come to visit in homes, men socialize with the men in one room and women visit with the women in another room.

It’s a religion that men use to repress women and attitudes like the one this judge displayed…and at a seminar on domestic violence…that keep Saudi women from gaining basic rights and being free from domestic violence.

It’s never okay to slap a woman. NEVER.





Life as an Iraqi Refugee

24 02 2009

Imagine what life would be like as an Iraqi refugee. I did some research on what refugees are experiencing. Here is a realistic story you could hear from one of them.

I am one of 5.5 million Iraqi refugees. I watched as my husband was killed by a suicide bomber in a revenge killing. A Sunni insurgent leader forced me and my children from our home at gunpoint.

Iraqi woman and child in refugee camp

Iraqi woman and child in refugee camp

We fled on foot to the holy Iraq Shiite city of Najaf and live in a camp with 200 other people. It is one of many camps in Iraq. 1.2 to 1.5 million of us fled to Syria and hundreds of thousands to Jordan after our homes were destroyed, our lives were threatened, and our family members were killed. One in five Iraqis are refugees…ONE in FIVE.

The water we drink is polluted. I fear being attacked if I go outside our tent and so my children and I urinate and defecate inside…in the place where we eat and sleep and live. Every time I venture out to collect firewood or to get some of the polluted water, I risk being raped.

My children had to drop out of school and there is no school in our camp. Sometimes we get meager rations of food to eat. Other times, I must prostitute myself to get money to buy bread and water for my children and me. Every day I pray that God will send us food and clean water. I pray that my children and I will not fall ill to cholera or typhoid, which is rampant in many of the camps.

I also pray that the United States will rescue us from this living hell. I have always heard that the United States was a very powerful and rich country and that they help people in other countries. They helped create the violence in my country by attacking us. Now they need to help those of us who were forced from our homes due to their aggression.

President Obama has pledged to create an international working group to address the crisis that we refugees face. He has pledged $2 billion in aid to expand services and help provide a decent place to live to refugees in Iraq and in neighboring countries. Every day is a struggle to stay alive physically and emotionally. Please hurry. We are dying.

Those who fled to Syria hope that President Obama will appoint an ambassador to Syria to help with their situation. They are not allowed to work and many of them are forced to allow their young daughters to dance in clubs and even serve as prostitutes to make money to feed their families.

I am barely holding on to hope and to the physical and emotional well being of myself and my children. I fear they will not develop properly because of lack of food and pure drinking water. I wonder if I will ever be able to have my own home again, hold a job, and find a man who would take me as his wife. I want a normal life. I want out of this camp. I am a refugee in my own country. I cry to God and ask for help for my family and my fellow Iraqis from someone…anyone. Please help us.

This post is written to recognize and give voice to those 5.5 million Iraqi refugees who want and need to be heard. Refugees International wants you to be aware of this situation and sign a petition to urge President Obama to take swift action to help Iraqi refugees. Here is a short clip from their website about Iraqi refugees in Syria:





Iraq War: The Cost of Bush Lies and His Influence of Not Being Accountable

1 02 2009

UPDATED 3/15/2013

From a Reuters report on a Watson Institute study:

NEW YORK, March 14 (Reuters) – The U.S. war in Iraq has cost $1.7 trillion with an additional $490 billion in benefits owed to war veterans, expenses that could grow to more than $6 trillion over the next four decades counting interest, a study released on Thursday said.

The war has killed at least 134,000 Iraqi civilians and may have contributed to the deaths of as many as four times that number, according to the Costs of War Project by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University.

When security forces, insurgents, journalists and humanitarian workers were included, the war’s death toll rose to an estimated 176,000 to 189,000, the study said.

See the full article here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/14/iraq-war-cost-more-than-2-trillion_n_2875493.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000009.

ORIGINAL POST I WROTE

George W. Bush reasons for the Iraq War: WMDs, Iraq’s ties to al-Qaeda, and liberate Iraqis from Saddam Hussein and create a democratic government. His refusal to accept or admit any accountability for the results of his misleading the American people have had tremendous cost to Iraq and to the U.S.

I just finished reading the riveting “War Journal: My Five Years in Iraq” by Richard Engel, NBC News Middle East Correspondent. Richard says none of those reasons for starting the war are true, and that the war in Iraq “…has always been more about geography, religion, and power than democracy. If you see where Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds live, it’s easy to understand their struggles for dominance.” Bush never understood that…and frankly didn’t care. He did what he wanted to do and what he wanted to do has been…and continues to be…extremely costly.

Here are some statistics on what the Iraq war (taken from think tanks such as the Brookings Institute and from the media) has cost the U.S. as of 1/21/09 due to Bush’s folly of inserting us in the middle of a civil and religious war:

  • 4,231 U.S. soldiers killed; 30% of them younger than 22 years old
  • 30,984 U.S. soldiers injured, with 20% of them having serious brain or spinal injuries
  • 30% of U.S. soldiers develop serious mental health problems within 3-4 months of returning home and suicide rates in the U.S. Army hitting an all-time high in 2008
  • One TRILLION DOLLARS (that’s $1000 billion) through  October 2009 in U.S. taxpayer money (this figure was updated 10/25/09)
    • $390,000 per year to deploy just ONE U.S. soldier
  • 142,000 – 148,000 (depending on whose statistics you use) troops in Iraq currently
  • 513,000 U.S. troops deployed since 2003; 197,000 of those more than once and 53,000 more than 3 times
  • According to February, 2007 Congressional hearings (and that was two years ago so the number is probably much higher now) an estimated $10 billion wasted and mismanaged in Iraq

Now add to those staggering numbers the impact on the Iraqi people:

  • An estimated more than one MILLION Iraqi citizens killed as of August, 2007 (according to the Opinion Business Research survey); the official documented number around 100,000
  • 2.25 million Iraqis displaced inside Iraq and 2.25 million Iraqis who are now refugees in Syria or Jordan as of May 2007; an additional 840,000 people displaced since May 2007 – a total of well over 5 MILLION Iraqis displaced
    • A note: Syria has refused to allow the 1.5 million who came there to work so many of the refugees have been forced to send their daughters – even as young as 5 or 6 – to clubs to dance to get money unofficially, becoming the family breadwinners. The girls make usually $20 to 30 per day in the clubs and the fathers of these girls act as pimps for work outside the club. These girls and their families are casualties of the U.S. War on Iraq.

Bush used the fear that the Iraq War would disintegrate into chaos to get re-elected in 2004. The cost to the American people of having four more years of Bush as president has been immense. He used fear again to continue to justify the now $12 billion per month the U.S. spends to keep our troops there. This is triple the burn rate of what we spent in the early years of the war. John McCain used fear about the war to try and get elected president and said he would never take our troops out until we had won. Only Barack Obama seems to understand that we are in a war we should never have started and that we cannot win.

The fear the Republican warmongers have perpetuated is that Iraq would descend into civil war if we leave. It has been happening for years now. Richard Engel cites countless atrocities that Iraqis have committed against other Iraqis during the Iraq War, continuing the torture and violence of Saddam Hussein:

  • A father’s beautiful 17-year-old daughter is kidnapped. The father talks to the kidnappers and convinces them to let him speak to his daughter. He asks her if she has been violated and she says yes. He tells the kidnappers to keep her…that he doesn’t want her back in that condition. The kidnappers execute the girl.
  • A family refuses an order to move from their home and their two-year-old boy is kidnapped, split open, stuffed with rice, roasted, and delivered to their doorstep.
  • People are executed and thrown in the streets as a warning to others to not cross the executioners.
  • Body parts are everywhere, bombings are commonplace, and women in particular hide in their homes in fear.

Some infrastructure improvements have been made since the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003. Phone subscribers have increased from 800,000 to over 14 million. Internet users have increased from 4,500 to around 850,000. Those improvements do not negate the fact that the cost of the Iraq war has been very high…for the U.S., other countries, and especially for Iraqis.

Bush’s lies have caused unbelievable destruction, death, injury, harm to the U.S. reputation around the world, increase in terrorists and terrorism, U.S.-sanctioned use of torture, and money. And we wonder why our country is in the place it is now. We had an immoral, destructionist, lying, and above-the-law president who felt he was accountable to no one. The American people followed suit…we felt we could do anything and not pay a price. We are paying now…both as a country and individually.