What I Learned from Iraq's Ambassador to the U.S.

I openly identify as a proud American.  Like most citizens of this great land, I'm impatient, slightly out of shape and ignorant about world affairs and geopolitics.   I'm spoiled with freedom, liberty and more opportunity than I can shake a stick at and loving every minute of it.  Which is why I so appreciate the National Public Affairs Forum and City Club Raleigh, for hosting a talk by Lukman Faily, Iraq's Ambassador to the U.S. to help expand my perceptions.

I often tell people that I only hear about every third word from most events because I'm concentrating on what I see through the lens, during this talk, I heard a few words that left an impression on me.  

My first takeaway is that many in Iraq's government realize that Americans, both inside and outside the government have "Iraq fatigue".  We've been exposed to it on the news for so long and we wonder if progress is being made and if our nation's involvement was even worth it.  I completely identify with this, mostly because I am so far removed from it and have only relied on traditional news sources for information.

My biggest takeaway, is that the people of Iraq are eager for democracy, but just not quite used to it yet, which is why we as Americans might perceive it as a volatile climate.  If you and the generation before you have spent your life being told what to do, where to live and how to be; that is oppressive, but predictable.  It can even begin to feel safe. Then, imagine all of the sudden, that stability is taken away.  Even new found freedom can feel scary and get pretty messy.

Apparently, that has been the untold story in Iraq since 2003.  The story most media outlets gloss over, because it makes for complex headlines and uninteresting soundbites.  I'm rooting for the people of Iraq.  I hope they find the peace and stability they seek.  

I wish the same for my own country.  Judging by the disposition of the current election cycle, we have more in common than most are willing to admit

How will history remember you? Okay, that's heavy, and we just met, so I'll take the pressure off and begin again by introducing myself. My mission is to help you answer that first question. I want to show you and your world in a way you haven't seen before and at some point hopefully incite a small riot inside your head. An unapologetic Gen-X warrior for self-expression, I help people tell their stories. Not just the pretty and polished, "made for Linkedin" version, but the real essence of their legacy. At my core, I'm a visual artist. The still photographic image has been my story telling medium for decades. Now I use words, images and on the rare occasion images in motion to push others to be more, do more and express more than they originally thought was reasonable. Are you still reading this? Really? I'm impressed. Moving on... I am Southern, though not fried. In my view, Bar-b-que should be enjoyed with any sauce on hand at the time. There is no need to quibble over which style of sauce best compliments. The real question is, "slaw or hushpuppies?" The correct answer is, "yes!".