It is fitting that my first day at EPIC would be the Tuesday after Memorial Day. Aside from pools opening, mass exoduses to the beach, and delicious cookouts, we are called upon to remember and honor those who have served our country in an effort to maintain peace.
As I’m getting my bearings around our office, and seeing how EPIC’s mission is put into practice, I find myself considering the situation of peace in Iraq. Is the absence of violence the peace that we hope for? Or are we seeking to achieve a peace characterized by harmony and a robust civil society? This second option is more in line with my thoughts on what peace really is, the kind of peace that people write songs about—the harmonious living and interactions of people in a country that was once divided by conflict.
I search the Internet for the latest news updates and come across the blog of an Iraqi girl (http://iraqigirl.blogspot.com/). Intrigued, I scroll through her posts and learn about a 22-year-old girl who is stressed about college exams but excited about an upcoming family vacation. It isn’t until she starts discussing how national curfews are interfering with her exam schedule that I have to start imagining how she feels—finals week is awful enough without having to worry about my actual safety. Throughout the rest of the day, I think about my fellow blogger as someone in tandem with my own day-to-day activities. I woke up this morning, walked to the office, stopped for some coffee, and will go home andcook dinner with my roommates. She is likely completing a very similar routine.
President Obama, this past Memorial Day, loosely associated the controversy over the Iraq War and the conflict in the Middle East with Vietnam and remarked on the end of the Iraq War as a “milestone of relative peace”. Our director Erik asked me this morning, “What has Iraq meant to you?”
I’m 21 years old. Roughly 9 of my 21 years have taken place during the Iraq War. What’s more is that these 9 years have been my middle school, high school, and college years—the same years that I have come into my own ideas about politics and war and peace.
Is Iraq our generation’s defining controversy? Has it helped me form my opinions? Has it influenced my academic and career goals? Has it shaped me? These are questions that I can’t answer at this very moment. These are questions that will hopefully help me contribute to EPIC’s mission of developing future leaders to achieve and maintain sustainable peace in a region that is too well known for sectarian violence.
What does it mean that there is a girl my own age in Iraq doing much of what I’m doing in Washington, D.C.? Is there something to be reconciled here? I’m grasping at these ideas of common humanity and not taking peace for granted, but I’m not sure what that means yet. Hopefully as I continue at EPIC, I will get some clarity and perhaps even an idea of where I want to take that clarity.