The following article is the second of two parts.
In my prior article, I told the story of my own family of 22 Iraqi refugees who, after the assassination of my oldest brother, followed in the same week by my father’s death by broken heart, escaped the terror of Iraq’s sectarian war to become, thankfully, American citizens.
Our core values all start from the family.
The contributions of any family to society arise from the foundational principles of that family. In turn, the essence of any society is defined through its shared values.
These shared values are reinforced and protected by a written Constitution, and by government leaders who are willing to ensure pluralism exists in their society --- but not through oppression.
In Iraq, our family thrived as a group of individuals unified by shared core values.
This dynamic empowered our family to survive the oppressive forces and instability beyond our front gates.
Like many other Iraqis, I learned at an early age that Freedom of Speech was not an option for me based on my gender and marital status. For example, freedom of speech was not an option for me to voice my opinion freely and without fear of retaliation from other families in my neighborhood who were connected to the dictatorship of late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
To try either to speak, or to do anything else in opposition of Hussein’s regime would immediately result in jail time, assassination, death sentence, or retaliation against one’s entire family.
As recounted in my prior article, my family experienced this horrific retaliation by pro-Saddam regime members in the assassination of my oldest brother due to our family’s support for the United States during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
In 2008, my family and I finally settled in America. We were immediately met with kind, caring, and compassionate Americans whose first words were "Welcome Home."
Through this experience, I learned early on that the power of American society are in its shared foundational principles that allow used my family of Iraqi refugees to maintain of own unifying family values while thriving towards true freedom and democracy as a new American family.
In America, I have been afforded the right to speak freely and to share my views, no longer silenced by an oppressive government regime. But with these powerful freedoms, I have learned, come responsibilities.
Fortunately, these responsibilities are closely aligned to my family principles.
In America, I have come to understand that while I can say what I like, I'm ccountable for the things I say. When I exercise my freedom of speech, I can either positively or negatively contribute to my new society. For instance, if I recklessly make disparaging remarks about others, my speech can result in another American’s pain.
It might even contribute to a suicide.
Ironically, I learned this same lesson in responsible "free speech" as a young girl in my family’s home in Iraq.
I'm frequently asked about Operation Iraqi Freedom.
As an exmaple, some ask me whether or not I feel that it helped or hurt the nation I once called home, or if it achieved a stronger, more stable, and more democratic society in Iraq.
I have even been asked by brave U.S. military veterans whether Operation Iraqi Freedom was "right" or "wrong."
Here in the U.S., we lose brave veterans at an alarming rate: nearly 22 veteran suicides per day.
And while I have the freedom to say whatever I may want about Operation Iraqi Freedom, and its impacts on Iraq, I also have a responsibility to preserve and protect my family principles.
Again, just because we are free to speak does not always mean we are without responsibility or accountability for what happens after we exercise that freedom.
As a U.S. citizen, I have aligned my principles further in a way that does not take advantage or exploit my freedoms afforded to me under our Constitution.
My new responsibilities as an American, I now understand, are to share my views and opinions in a way that helps the American mission in Iraq going forward, and not to raise doubt about what has or has not taken place yet.
My goal now is to use my freedom of speech responsibly to encourage veterans to continue to fight for just causes, such as supporting the brave young Iraqis who also face devastating suicide rates, along with challenges, frankly, unknown to most Americans.
Both American military veterans and Iraqi youth today are committed to fight for freedoms.
My hope is that we as Americans can align our family core values with our societal core values, including freedom of speech, in a responsible manner that promotes the first of our Constitution’s stated purposes: "to form a more perfect Union," both here and in Iraq.
Mrs. Al Saadi is a refugee from Iraq and now a naturalized American citizen. Prior to co-founding PACEM Solutions International in Falls Church, Virginia, Mrs. Alsaadi held multiple Senior Executive positions and served with the US Department of State as a Cultural Advisor and the US Department of Defense as a Translator/Analyst in Iraq. Mrs. Alsaadi earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Baghdad University and her Executive Master of Business Administration from Georgetown University. Read Rana Alsaadi's Reports — More Here.
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