We May Be Used to Bombings in Baghdad, But Baghdad Isn't

This skyline of downtown Baghdad with rooftops and terraces is a very typical urban view seen all over the Middle East.
This skyline of downtown Baghdad with rooftops and terraces is a very typical urban view seen all over the Middle East.

On July 12th, 2016, I woke to news that a bombing in a Shia-dominated district of Baghdad, Iraq had claimed the lives of 11 people and injured dozens. Immediately after, I heard someone joke that it was "just another day in Iraq". While it was only eight days ago that another Shia district was bombed and 250+ were killed, the Iraqi people, whether they are Sunni, Shia, Christian, or Yazidis, are anything but used to this.

There are many things a human being can get used to in life. I once forced myself to eat oatmeal for 6 months, eventually I was not only used to it, I started to enjoy it.

I'll never get used to the sound of a helicopter above my head, not after I spent weeks listening to war planes drop missiles on my village in the summer of 2016. No, there are some things you never get used to.

Sure, some could call it PTSD, maybe I should deal with my memories in a better way. A friend once suggested I move to an area where helicopters were common, eventually my ears would get used to it, like my nose gets used to a bad smell. But living in the greater NYC area, 5 minutes from the Hudson River, means helicopters are part of my daily life. I'll never get used to them.

You don't get used to bad things. You get used to tolerable things. You get used to the way your partner leaves their towel on the floor when the rack is right above it. You get used to your neighbor's dog barking in the middle of the night. You get used to the cold in NYC 18 years after leaving Los Angeles. You never get used to the loss of a loved one. You never get used to the sight of dead bodies on the ground. You never get used to the smell of burning cars. You never get used to the taste of bile in your throat. You never get used to the sound of a woman's screams when she discovers her son was one of the victims.

It's easy to rid ourselves of moral responsibility by deciding that people who consistently endure bad things ought to be used to it. The woman next door who endures physical and mental abuse will eventually get used to it, no need to call the cops anymore. But who is really used to it? The woman, or you? Her screams in the house have become tolerable, you are used to it. She is not used to the bruises on her body or the fear in her chest. Numbness is not the same thing. You don't adapt to bad things, survival of the fittest does not apply to our memories.

So, yes, society may be used a bombing in Baghdad every other day. No, Baghdad is not used to it.

Adnan Safaa Abo-Altman, a young man who had graduated law school four days before, wasn't used to having his life taken. His mother will never get used to the loss of him, his father, and his brother.

Hassan Ali's wife, and mother of Raqia and Hadi will never get used to losing her husband and children in one moment. Her husband and children weren't used to shopping for Eid clothes one moment, and being victims of a bombing the next. The three victims are pictured below.

Adel al-Jaf, a dancer who planned on moving to the US, was probably used to leg soreness the day after a long dance practice. I don't think he was used to his city being bombed. I don't think his family will ever get used to his death.

Akram and Mohammed's mother was not used to hearing that her two sons had died in the Karrada bombings. For if she was, she wouldn't have died from shock.

We are used to it, so we don't make hashtags, change our profile pictures, or memorize their names. By taking away these rights away from them, and yes, they have become rights, as long as other victims are given them, we are taking away their connection to us as humans. We forget that we would probably never get used to having our hometowns bombed every day, that just like us, they are humans who don't forget, can't forget.

No, the 11 people killed today weren't used to dying. The 292 killed last week were not used to it. Their families will never get used to it. No matter how long you spend in a war area, you never get used to it. Ask a soldier, ask a refugee, ask someone who experiences violence and pain on the daily if they ever truly get used to it. We might be able to tune out their screams, but we weren't the ones screaming in the first place.