The year is 2000: I am Shia. I have a wife, three sons and a daughter. I work at a factory that makes plumbing fittings. My boss is Sunni. He makes more money than me. Most Sunnis make more money than me. It is not fair. But my boss is good to me. I make enough wages to feed my family and pay the rent on the small apartment we have on the outskirts of Baghdad. My sons are 16, 12 and 10. My daughter is 9. Each of my sons goes to a school where they get technical training and conduct religious studies. My daughter also goes to school, separate from my sons, but she is receiving instruction in languages and math. My daughter is learning English, and she speaks it better than anyone in my family. My wife keeps a very clean home. We have one car, which I drive to the factory, but my wife uses the car on the weekends and the evenings. Some of my Shia friends think I should not let my wife drive, but they see that she is a better driver than me, and is careful and uses it to go marketing and do other shopping. We are sometimes visited by Saddam's police, to check on us, to make certain that we are not doing anything that would be considered against the government. We did not mind these visits so much because we were not doing anything we shouldn't be. But some of my Shia friends were killed by Saddam. But then, they were doing things that Saddam did not like. My wife and I agreed to just raise our family and not get involved with politics so that we would be left alone. All of my Shia friends hungered for the day when we could get rid of Saddam and his police. But it was to be far in the future, and we did not think about it everyday.
The year is 2008: I am Shia. I have a wife, one son and one daughter. My two oldest sons were killed in a bomb. I do not work at the factory anymore because no one is buying plumbing fittings from the company where I worked, not to mention the fact that my boss was killed by his fellow Sunnis for assisting the Americans. Most plumping supplies are now imported. I do not have a job, and live from day to day relying mostly on certain charities from the Shia mosques. My sons were killed in separate bomb attacks. First it was my middle son. Then my eldest. This all occurred after the Americans came and liberated us from Saddam. My wife refuses to leave the house. She is afraid. I go out to get food and other essentials. My daughter stays home with her mother. And my son accompanies me on my trips to the mosque and the market. We try to travel in such a way so that if a bomb goes off, only one of us would die rather than both of us. My wife and I are very confused by everything. My wife and I enjoyed going to the polling booth and having our finger dipped in ink. But that was months ago. I am glad I have my new freedom of speech and freedom to vote. Democracy has brought hope for the future. But I no longer remember what that feeling of hunger to free ourselves of Saddam was like. In fact, I can not even think about yesterday or tomorrow because I am so worried about the next minute or the next hour. And if I cannot think about tomorrow, then hope is wasted.