I rolled out of bed late Sunday morning and hopped on the computer for my daily brush-up on the news. Braced for reports of massive bombings and mass boycotts on your election day, I instead found myself silently cheering the fact that an estimated 72% (which was later revised to around 60%) of your population defied threats of violence by taking to polling stations around the country, making their voices heard.
I am an optimist by nature, and prior to January 30th I had been hopeful about your pending elections. As violence within your borders escalated leading up to your big day, I found myself wondering if perhaps my optimism was naive, more out of wishful thinking than real possibility. I am happy to say you proved my optimism well-founded and I almost feel guilty for having doubted you.
60%. If democracies were measured strictly according to voter participation, we would be forced to recognize your democratic prowess as on par with that of my country, the self-anointed champion of democracy. Of you we should take note, and ask ourselves why, in our country where elections hold no threat of violence, a 60% turn-out at the polls is considered so unusually high (though, as luck would have it, Voting Day ’04 saw approximately just that number).
I believe the outcome of your election to be a defeat for terror, whatever its form. Images of Iraqis in the streets donning ink-stained fingers, proof that they voted, informed your enemies and the world alike of that which you already knew: your citizens are taking back what rightfully belongs to them. It is the first step on what I suspect will be a road full of challenges as competing factions within your borders wrangle over the framework for a legitimate, representative government; but it is a first step, nonetheless; a first, vital step.
It is sad that your current climate allows us to declare as logistically successful a voting day tally of at least 29 dead and over 70 wounded; but your constituents have acted with fearless resolve and, in doing so, have given me a renewed feeling of hope, a humble sense of respect, and the image of a symbolic, ink-stained finger forever burned into memory.