Monday, January 31, 2005

FINALLY

It’s over and the world hasn’t ended. Seriously, Iraq’s first democratic elections in decades went relatively smoothly, all considering, and it was inspiring to see. Despite the suicide bombers and attacks on polling stations, it looks like Iraq’s voter turnout will be about the same as that of the last U.S. presidential election. Before I went to work, I stopped by a polling station. It was early in the afternoon and hundreds of people had already shown up to vote. I saw one elderly woman who was helped to the ballot box by her daughter. And I heard stories of some Iraqis crying as they cast their vote. I also heard of one 85-year-old man in southern Iraq who left his home for the first time since the fall of the Saddam regime to go to the polls.

An Iraqi colleague, the one who I wrote about earlier who was treated badly at the U.S. embassy, was the first in line at his polling station. He arrived at 6:30 am, a half hour before the polls opened. And he still has the ink on his finger. We joke that he will never wash it off. When we arrived at work, I congratulated all my Iraqi colleagues for their participation in democracy. It was truly a historic moment and seeing them with their ink-stained fingers made me have faith in humanity.

Of course, there is still more work ahead. But I don't want to focus on that now as I'm sure that will be a subject for future postings. I just want to concentrate on the positive. Besides, whatever obstacles are presented in the future, Iraqis can take strength from what they witnessed on election day.