The Gordian 'Not' - What Iraqis taught me about priorities & the value of freedom
COVID-19 & civil unrest do not supersede the 1st Amendment
I wrote this back on LinkedIn, just before shifting over to Twitter and Substack from LI and Facebook. Back then, I had 1 follower between the two, but my perspective, priorities and purpose are unchanged from 7 months ago. I withdrew from the last 4 credit hours of my MBA program a few weeks after I published this article, despite being on unemployment, because my gut told me that the window was closing to uncover the truth of the COVID-19 pandemic. I have no regrets.
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What makes our country great? Why do I believe in it, despite our problems? Because when I was 22 years old, I learned why America is different - I just never anticipated a time when the perspective of Iraqis would be needed to remind us of the value and necessity of the rights we take for granted.
My concern at the response to the Capitol riot last week is not the same as my disgust at the actions. I've never had the occasion to frame my experience in this realm, but while most Americans can't relate to terrorism aimed at threatening an election, I've seen the struggle firsthand.
I had the honor of witnessing and working directly with the effort as Iraqi turnout exceed 80% in Anbar province - under the promise of bloodshed by Al Qaeda - in December 2005. As one of the few volunteers with a clearance, I was pulled from the role I signed up for - and at the likely cost of a lifetime's worth of karma - met all 600ish poll workers in the province. My "team's" responsibilities meant that I was one of the only people there in the middle of the night when they returned (all fixed-wing flights had to take off or land in darkness, for safety).
My most indelible memory of Iraq was the flood of poll workers afterwards, with the carts of ballots in tow, cheering as they held up their purple thumbs. One man in particular is burned into my memory, who was crying (happily) as he shook my hand. His other hand was missing fingers and wrapped in bloody bandages, but he was joyful. As long as I live, I will never forget that handshake, or watching dozens of wounded Iraqi men holding up ink-stained fingers and singing along with everyone else.
The divisions within American society are deep, and 2020 was a nuclear bomb of pessimism - its fallout is still actively poisoning our spirit - right at a moment in history when the pandemic challenge we face is literally peaking this week. But, after watching insurgents escort families to the polls and defending against terrorist attacks, I don't buy in to the fatalism or rhetoric that says our cultural cancer is inoperable. After all, when the diagnosis comes from the bi-partisan toilet bowl responsible for a generation of failed leadership (and their radioactive divide-and-conquer tactics fed the tumor), why give the turds a plunger when flushing will solve the problem?
>I can't, in good conscience, remain silent when American politicians respond to terrorism by supporting censorship of their opponents; in the face of promised violence, Iraqi factions united to exercise their new freedom at any cost. I saw someone pay 3 fingers and some shrapnel for a single ballot, and afterwards thank us through tears of joy; our Congress undermined unprecedented achievements in vaccine technology because the price of even paying a compliment to President Trump was too high. Nor, can I excuse their cowardice in refusing to give the American people an honest and blunt picture of what the winter wave was going to look like. As I explained in that article, they had enough information to do so, but both sides of the aisle were eager to avoid the details. The same reticence haunts the unanswered question of COVID-19’s origin.
As such, my commentary on our current election is not idly chosen, or made without considering the evidence or context available. My primary reason for actively researching and educating about the COVID-19 pandemic, beginning in early March, was the disgust I felt as I watched partisanship shape media coverage before the crisis had even reached our hemisphere. The last thing I want to do is undermine that effort - but at this point, refusing to speak up at home would be an insult to the sacrifices of Iraqis who understand the true value of what we take for granted.
Our freedom is more valuable than our comfort, which is why my responsibility to defend Colin Kaepernick was superior to my disapproval of his decision to kneel for the anthem. He had that right, unlike those who stormed the capitol last week - but we should never value safety so much that others’ violating of the Constitution becomes our justification to ignore it.
Charles H. Rixey
Staff Sergeant, United States Marine Corps, 2004-2018
There is a lot about Jan 6 and the treatment of those they have yet to charge that should concern you. It is of concern that possible FBI associates or personnel were antagonist.
It should also be of concern what is coming to light on the election which most of us had a serious concern in the middle of the election night when counting suddenly stopped. What happened Jan 6 was not helpful and has been used for political gain but the loss of election integrity is far more serious to me