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Saturday, July 4, 2015

What I learned about Freedom from my Iraqi Neighbors

A few years ago I had a neighbor that really rocked my view of what freedom means. Under the rule of Saddam Hussein and in perilous circumstances she and her family fled to Egypt. She was only twelve years old at the time. In a country not their own, they lived in tents with dozens of others waiting to immigrate to the United States. In her eyes I saw the pain of that dark time as she calmly told me that twelve people in their extended family had been killed under Saddam’s reign of terror. Her voice rose as she described one particularly tragic death. Her cousin, while attending college, was pulled from his classes and shot on campus because he had spoken critically of the government in a public place. The day that Saddam’s regime was taken down and Saddam taken out of power she said they cheered out loud in their home. I’ve since reflected on her words, even compared them to my own feelings about my beloved United States. I’ve thought about how her children have never known the oppression that she faced. How her daughter can become anything she wants and her son, if he chose, could disagree with the government without fear of retribution or death. When I have these thoughts, I am ashamed that days go by that I don’t cherish the freedoms I enjoy. I feel angry at myself for not thinking of the men and women that molded and created what at first was called The Great Experiment. Even more importantly I am reminded of precious blood that has been spilt in defense of democracy. I know my government isn’t perfect. I know we have a long way to go, but thanks to my neighbor who so casually spoke of what she sacrificed to get here, I am reminded, even compelled to cherish the nearly unrestricted freedom that I have. I am sublimely grateful for my Iraqi, now American neighbor who is living proof that you can thrive when given the opportunity and freedom is worth the sacrifice to get it. I hope you enjoyed her story and for those of us in the U. S. Happy 4th of July!

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