A friend who was watching the SOTU with an Iraqi friend writes during e-mail correspondence to me tonight:
he’s been ecstatic for days now. it’s hard to explain what life is like for iraqis right now. i think it’s full of overwhelmingly emotional moments like that one [the hug]. he told me of some of his aunt who lives in a very bad (read: terrorist-infested) area of Baghdad. she is a widow (and a Sunni)- her husband was killed by Saddam. All night the imam at the mosque was broadcasting not to vote, how it is against islam to vote. in the morning she got up and went to her neighbor’s house and told her friend she was going to vote. These two women left together. When they came back with their blue fingers they could see their neighbors peeking out from behind curtains. Soon after, people started streaming out of their houses and soon everyone from their neighborhood went off to vote.
he told me also how iraqis who before had been terrified of being identified as pro-American and therefore hadn’t so much as looked up when passing soldiers on the street were suddenly handing out candies to them. they now get why we’re there. i don’t think they believed it before. so yes- the hug was amazing- and an important symbol of what is happening.