It is hard to put into words what feelings must be in the hearts and minds of so many Iraqis. As I write this, the votes of the Iraqi people are being counted – they remain in waiting after one of the most important days in their country’s history. Jan. 30, 2005 was the day that the people chose their leaders for the first time in nearly 50 years. After years of being under the thumb of a brutal despot, the Iraqi people are getting a chance to let the ballot – not the whims of a callous ruler – decide their fate.

The acts of bravery that were shown by the Iraqi people is something deserving of the highest praise. Prior to the election, a leaflet in Baghdad warned, “This is a final warning to all of those who plan to participate in the election. We vow to wash the streets of Baghdad with the voters’ blood.” With all of the violence that had been going on, there is ample reason to believe the populace would be bowed down and fail to show.

Not only did the Iraqi citizens show up, they gave terrorist leader Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi the finger. The last figures, undoubtedly to change, had a 60 percent turnout.

Considering the circumstances, the desire of these people to vote is heartwarming.

Stories are coming out of such heroism that it makes me wonder how sad it is for us to complain that we can not vote because we’re tired or some other apathetic reason.

One group of under 100 people started walking to another city, because its polling place was closed, and slowly grew into 1,000 marching unassisted to vote.

Friends carried some voters on their backs or in wheelbarrows. One polling place was attacked by a suicide bomber and, once cleared up, re-opened to flocks of voters.

I’ll admit I was surprised – I did not expect the elections to go so smoothly and with so little violence. Commendation has to be given to the roughly 300,000 Iraqi and U.S. soldiers for their work and strict control of vehicles that forced the bombers to resort to personal suicide attacks – each one horrible, but far better than a car bomb.

Perhaps I should have more closely heeded the desire for freedom in the mouths of some Iraqis. As one party spokesman said, “Saddam killed five million people. Do you think a man like Zarqawi, with his dozens or even hundreds of victims, can frighten us?”

Whatever your thoughts on the Iraq war, a statement such as that should warm your heart.

I think this a good thing to remember. Initially, I wanted to write some pithy article about the Democratic National Committee chair fight or something like that. A little perspective is in order, I think, for all of us.

As much as we get on these pages and rant against this or that – we have it pretty good. I think we forget how blessed we are.

If you hate President George W. Bush, you can say that. Go ahead and whine about him and his conservative following at any time – as a preface to a collection of poetry, even – and have no fear of retribution. Because it is so “normal” for us, we forget how abnormal that freedom is across the globe.

What I’d suggest to each one of you – and to myself – is to take a moment and be thankful for what we have and to pray for what is going on in Iraq. Their elections are something to be followed, helped along and praised.

Democracy coming to so many millions of people is a great thing.

Bush, in his inaugural address, described freedom as a fire that “will reach the darkest corners of our world.”

I hope all of us can hope that these elections will be like a big can of gasoline poured on that fire – one that will burn up the dream of every tyrant, despot and terrorist.

Clemm can be reached at

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