March 20, 2003. I stand with other students, staring at a television in my university's student union building, watching Baghdad being bombed. Explosions light up the screen. "Shock and awe". I'd spent many hours in the preceding months organizing, marching, due to the pressing need I felt to do whatever my small part was to stop the impending attack on Iraq. In the end, not surprisingly, it went ahead. I was grateful that Canada wasn't a part of it, but still, here it was. I stand watching war on television.
In the strange happenstance of life, I now spend my days in family practice, seeing Iraqi refugees resettled in my city, still reeling from the effects of the war. Crippling PTSD pervades some of their lives. Yes, they have built new lives in Canada and many are thriving, but the ones who aren’t take up most of my attention. Layers upon layers of trauma. And for all of them, the sense of loss remains. I think of these effects as the reverberations of those initial explosions - rippling out across the world and the Iraqi diaspora, for years.
This is, of course, not unique — the longstanding, multi-generational effects of trauma are felt within many communities. But it’s one that’s close at hand to me, almost every day. During the student and community campaigns that I worked with to urge non-violence, I strove to think of the individual men, women and children who would be affected on the ground in Baghdad. Today, I know some by name.