Reporters on the Job

Mothers, Sons, and Politics: Interviewing families can be enlightening because it can open a window onto generational divides that often say a lot about the direction a place is heading. Reporting from Baghdad, staff writer Howard LaFranchi says a chat with a mother and son - Fallujah refugees - reminded him of a conversation he'd had years ago with a mother and son in Cuba. In both cases, the two people were as dear to each other as could be - but their politics were on different wavelengths.

"In Havana, a taxi driver I'd used repeatedly asked me one day if I wouldn't like to stop for a coffee at his mother's house. Mother and son embraced and fell into small talk, but perhaps because I'm American the conversation segued into a discussion of Fidel Castro," recalls Howard.

The mother couldn't sing the bearded leader's praises enough. The son, who had quit his job as a low-paid government engineer so he could actually make a living, rued his life under a rigid, outdated dictator, says Howard.

In Baghdad, Howard bumped into a family from Fallujah he had interviewed for an earlier story. "I asked Ali Badri, a young man who had just returned from Fallujah, what people were saying about the pending Iraqi elections. He said, 'People are dying from the American bombs, so how can people worry about elections? People don't care.'

"Up to now Ali's mother had kept quiet. 'No, people in Fallujah are like the rest of us, they want elections because they want a new leader,' she told me. She suggested someone older and wiser, like Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. 'Young people are attracted to Moqtada al-Sadr,' she said, referring to the Shiite cleric who opposes the US. 'But he is rash and doing things that lead to innocent Iraqis dying. But Sistani could say one word and Iraqis would rise up against the American presence. He just doesn't want more bloodshed.'

"Ali seemed to consider her words. 'Yes, maybe we could support Sistani.' "

David Clark Scott
World editor

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