Well, I’ve been here over two months now, and soon I’ll be going on my first regional rest break. What this means is that they will fly me to Amman – where I go from there is up to me. So, I’m going to Turkey for Turkey Day! A few thoughts and impressions on my first two months in Iraq – there is one experience that sticks out in my mind. When I was in Kirkuk, there was a group of Iraqi women that came in to talk via video to American women in their same profession. They were amazed at some of the things they learned. One point that shocked me a bit was that they were surprised to learn that in America, it is illegal for husbands to beat their wives. Can you imagine? It was like a dagger to my chest, that people would think this is okay – it made me want to get involved, to spread the word that THIS IS NOT OKAY, not in Iraq, not anywhere.
As I was escorting some of the women to the exit point, they were asking me about myself. They asked if I went to university, and asked me what I majored in. I told them I majored in theater. This again intrigued them, as they told me that all the arts programs at universities were shut down – Iraq’s Education Ministry has banned all theater and music classes. This saddens me – how does a country expect to pull itself out of this battle when you stifle creativity? Without creativity, you have no innovation, and no hope of moving forward into the present and the future. It pains me and makes me want to do what I can do to change this. I want to let people know that they don’t have to stand for it, that they can effect change. I want them to know they have options, that they can be who they want to be.
Through all of this, and because of all of this, it makes me grateful to be an American. Being here in Iraq makes me treasure these freedoms we take for granted in the United States. These rights we have fought for over the years – as women, as artists, as people – they are precious. Recently I went to the Marine Ball here, where they played the national anthem. One of my friends took a picture of me from across the room, all dressed up in my finest, solemnly with my hand over my heart, thankful that I’m an American. It’s a reminder that patriotism isn’t just on the Fourth of July. I’m proud to be an American. On this Thanksgiving, I’m thankful to be where I am, and to have the freedom to be who I am.