Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Fall-out from War: Genes and Good News in Iran

The cashier stopped checking out my order yesterday to look at the photograph accompanying a bizarre story in The Globe and Mail I was buying. It seems a bright Toronto girl recently won free high speed internet access while her father, out on bail in a terrorism case, has been denied unsupervised communication with the outside world.

“Look at her eyes,” the cashier said, pointing to Mahmoud Jaballah’s wife, whose gray eyes were the only thing showing in her veiled face. The cashier looked at me with a puzzled look on her own face.

Hmm, I thought, just like those famous National Geographic photos of an Afghan girl with startling green eyes. “Well, you know,” I said, “people get around. There were a lot of armies marching back and forth in the Middle East. Armies leave babies sometimes. Who knows where those genes came from.”

The cashier laughed. Her own broad face with dark, slanting eyes looked Chinese to me, but I couldn’t be sure.

“I have a friend whose family came from Scotland way back and she’s got that epicanthic fold on her eyelids,” I added. “You never know what happened in the past.”

The young woman laughed again, and began to check out the next customer. “You never know,” she repeated.

And that is probably just as well, given our troubled history of invasions and war. The pain and sorrow is hidden in the background, happily only showing itself in quiet times in charms, stories, and tale-tell inheritance. In my own family, my father, a black Scot, was in demand for “first stepping” on New Year’s Day, since to have someone with dark hair and dark eyes be the first to cross the threshold in a new year was considered good luck. I wondered what might lie behind the custom until I realized that it might symbolize a wish not to have Viking marauders attack in the coming year.

All this is by way of preface for the bit of good news which came out this week: that US intelligence says Iran quit working on atomic weapons three years ago. That, in itself, is good news, but what is even better news is that the US has had to admit that. Maybe we will be spared another horrendous military adventure in that part of the world. Better, by far, to make love, not war. Better yet for that love to be reciprocal, not forcibly taken.

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