Tuesday, September 22, 2009


This morning my wife wrote:
Eid Mubarak to you (or, happy Eid)!  How strange it is that you are in Iraq and don't even mention that most holy of holy days in your blog!  Is that because your base is so American that the holiday makes no difference, or is it because you're trying to focus on one small part of your life at a time?

In Bonchek [residential hall at Franklin and Marshall College], we had a standing-room-only crowd for the Eid dinner we hosted.  That's partly because we don't have many chairs -- but we really did have 70 people lined up for food, and everyone had a lovely time in spite of the wait.  Many of the international students talked about how they hadn't had a chance to get together yet this semester, so this was a grand reunion for them; but many Americans intermingled and got to eat yummy food as well.

I knew it was the end of Ramadan because two Jewish friends of mine mentioned that Rosh Hashonah was starting this weekend--Islam and Judaism use a lunar calendar for holy days.

I suppose most everyone in this ambiguous war thinks it would be a relief to fight as their grandfathers did in World War Two. They fought German or Japanese soldiers. The enemy wore uniforms and was always the enemy. Here we don't have an identifiable enemy. Once in a while a real enemy will fire a rocket or mortar at our base, but to very little effect and at very great danger to themselves--so it doesn't happen often.

September 11 and September 19 were both supposed to be days that we could be attacked. We weren't. Who knows why or why not. But in the meantime we do live in a very American place, with a 22-mile perimeter of fence patrolled by Americans with big guns. So my wife and her colleagues in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, were a lot closer in fellowship and spirit to Ramadan than those of us who live a kilometer from the Ziggurat of Ur.

We are in a hostile place with an enemy we neither see nor can identify. I might go to the Ramadan party on campus next year. This year I am glad it passed without anyone getting hurt.

The Philosopher of War and Terror and Politics: Hannah Arendt

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