Why I don't celebrate Liberation Day the way that some do....
I hated it when spraying people with foam was the "fun" and acceptable way to celebrate a day that I take very seriously: Liberation Day. National day - ok. That's just really another holiday to me, but I have a personal history with the liberation of Kuwait and I take great offense to the way that many people here choose to celebrate the day that commemorates a loss of life and sacrifice.
(I'm glad it is banned, but it's been replaced by something equally as offensive - water guns.)
I'm not gonna lie (oh YES I am!). I'm older than the 29 years that shall remain my official age...
I worked to help liberate Kuwait. I was there with Kuwaiti friends in Washington DC - from the day that Kuwait was invaded by Iraq on August 2, 1990 (at a spontaneous demonstration outside the White House) through to the end when Kuwait was liberated by ALLIED (not only Kuwaiti as it is now being told) forces on February 26, 1991. (Allied meaning "alliance" - meaning friends and brothers/sisters in arms.) I volunteered at the Kuwaiti Embassy in Washington, DC. I volunteered with Citizens for a Free Kuwait and several other groups working towards education (of the American people because many didn't even know where Kuwait was at that time); and ultimately freedom/liberation for Kuwait.
My Kuwaiti friends were tortured. Some died. Some cover up their scars and you would never guess by looking at them that something awful had happened to them. Some lost family members and still don't know where their bodies are buried. Some were maimed. Some lost all hope - even till now.
Some of my female friends volunteered to FIGHT along side of the US military (they were allowed to go as interpreters). I was with them in training until the time that they left (I'm American so no-go). Nothing is written about them (25 young female volunteers in all) in Kuwaiti history books. Nothing is mentioned in speeches or on plaques. They were given the rank of honorary sergeants during the war and paid by the Kuwaiti Government as such. They went to basic training at US military camps in New Jersey and boarded planes to undisclosed destinations surrounding Kuwait; waiting for the opportunity to get back in when Kuwait was liberated and find their families. They slept in the mud. They sacrificed - some going against the wishes of their families. Many Kuwaiti men at the time considered them a disgrace to their country; female Kuwaitis going to the battlefield. I suppose they must still be shamed by the fact that KUWAITI WOMEN FOUGHT FOR KUWAIT in 1990/91 because nothing is ever mentioned about it.
When I moved to Kuwait in 1996, there were so few Westerners that Kuwaitis would stop and thank me on behalf of my country for helping to liberate Kuwait. There were many smiles. It was a wonderful and unifying feeling. In the 90's, celebrations on the Gulf Road were with flag-flying cars (similar to now), but with the flags of ALL of the Allied Forces; especially US, British, and Saudi. Street vendors sold all flags on the corners. People still remembered their recent history. And most people were respectful.
I stopped celebrating when a young boy tore the American flag off my car and stomped on it on the ground. That day changed me. I remember the look on his face: Hatred. More than that, he tried to get into the car. It was awful. I wasn't afraid - he was just a boy. But who taught him that? Why didn't he understand?
Why can't people remember their history here? The pulse of the country has turned from unity to bashing. I don't feel wanted here like I used to. It makes me sad.
The older generations here certainly remember, but the young generations are not being taught. Or maybe they are being dismissive. Why?
And why is it considered appropriate to assault people in "celebration"? I don't go out after being maliciously drenched in water outside my home (the distance from the door to my car) by a gang of four "celebrants" (as the media now calls them). I went in, changed; only to walk out and be assaulted again by the same juvenile delinquents, waiting to ambush me. Is that celebrating? Are paint-filled balloons and God-only-knows-what-filled water guns randomly aimed at people who then plead for them to stop? Is that what Kuwaiti children are being taught? Again, it makes me sad for this country to know this is what it has come to: A vagrant disrespect for others. (And it seems that most expats are the easiest targets.)
Sermon: If you want to shoot people with paint and water - go play paintball at an amusement park where others have AGREED to it. I don't find it amusing to have my car damaged or to be soaked when I'm asking people not to. Teaching your delightful little delinquents that it is acceptable to disrespect older people will eventually turn the same disrespect towards you. Can I get an "ameen"?
So, I honor Liberation Day in my own way: Reflection. The only outward statement of unity is the SAME statement I made in 1990 and 1991 in the Washington, DC area: My, "I LOVE Q8" Virginia license plate. People in DC would stop and ask me why I had it and I would get to educate them one-on-one as to what was really happening to people (just like them) inside Kuwait during the invasion. Now, I carefully place that same license plate every February - inside the back window of my car. No flags to rip off. No way to (easily) tear it off. It is the way I honor the sacrifices that my friends (and my own family) made to this country I love. I try not to even drive during the few days surrounding the holidays - as even highway travel is an invitation to get vandalized.
Kuwait - teach your children well. Help liberate them (if you will pardon the pun) from hostility towards others.