A teen, a plan, an essay: Chistmas in Baghdad for Hassan

A teen, a plan, an essay: Chistmas in Baghdad for Hassan

Farris Hassan in IraqSo, Farris Hassan wants to be a journalist. More: he wants to be an immersion journalist, the kind of writer who fully enters the story he’s covering, risking becoming part of the story, and hoping to craft something fuller, with more texture, with greater narrative scope than traditional journalism. (Some traditional journalists are uncomfortable with immersive journalism because of the ethical issues raised in becoming part of the story. Recently, I blogged on Kurt Eichenwald’s story about teen pornographer Justin Berry, and Eichenwald crossed a fuzzy ethical line in traditional journalism by becoming part of and influencing the story itself, and he took some heat for it. But he did the right thing, and Eichenwald’s a big boy. He’s handling the criticism nicely.)

Problem is, Pine Crest private school student Farris Hassan is only 16 and his immersive experience could have cost him his life.

Born of Iraqi parents, but fully American, with shiny Nikes and stone-washed jeans, he thought it would be cool to skip Christmas, dodge his parents, and immerse himself in Baghdad. Yes, Iraq. Where Americans are kidnapped, ransomed, and sometimes killed.

He’s okay, though. Some grizzled AP reporters with greater experience and wisdom than Hassan called the US embassy when he arrived in Baghdad, and the 101st Airborne is bringing him back home.

Excuse me while my head spins for a bit….

Okay. I’ll forget for a moment the early grave I would dig if my son bolted to the bullet-riddled Middle East without at least leaving me a note. (Sure, he’s only four now, but he’s a clever little weasel.) And I’ll forget for a moment the insane foolhardiness of his idealism untempered by pragmatic realism. I’ll even ignore the taxpayer’s expense of sending soldiers to ferry another crazy American back to the embassy and thence to Florida.

What really has me stunned is his essay. Read this quote from this allegedly non-religious teenager’s essay, emailed to his teachers from the Kuwait city airport:

“There is a struggle in Iraq between good and evil, between those striving for freedom and liberty and those striving for death and destruction. … Those terrorists are not human but pure evil. For their goals to be thwarted, decent individuals must answer justice’s call for help. Unfortunately altruism is always in short supply. Not enough are willing to set aside the material ambitions of this transient world, put morality first, and risk their lives for the cause of humanity. So I will.

Life is not about money, fame, or power. Life is about combating the forces of evil in the world, promoting justice, helping the misfortunate, and improving the welfare of our fellow man. Progress requires that we commit ourselves to such goals. We are not here on Earth to hedonistically pleasure ourselves, but to serve each other and the creator. What deed is greater than sacrificing one’s luxuries for the benefit of those less blessed? …

If I know what is needed and what is right, but do not act on my moral conscience, I would be a hypocrite. I must do what I say decent individuals should do. I want to live my days so that my nights are not full of regrets. Therefore, I must go.”


Insane? Foolish? Brash? Impetuous? Yes. That. And more.

But also: right.

Something else that strikes me about this story is how like Christ-like Hassan’s words and actions are. Christ left Heaven and came to sin-riddled Earth as a powerless and dependent stranger to become a part of our story and influence its outcome. What synchronicity, this tale of Hassan’s attempt at immersion coinciding with the Christian world’s celebration of Christmas: the ultimate immersion ending in the greatest story ever told.

Farris Hassan may not have any “religious affiliation,” but I suspect that in many respects, he may be further along toward Christ-likeness than I am.

Watch this kid. It’ll be … interesting—if he survives.

From the Web:

[tags]BlogRodent, Farris-Hassan, Iraq, Iraq-war, War-on-Terror, idealism, youth, essay, Christmas-break, high-school, conscience, morality[/tags]

6 thoughts on “A teen, a plan, an essay: Chistmas in Baghdad for Hassan

  1. Josh r

    If you are inspired by this kid, be sure to check out Mike Yankoski’s book “Under the Overpass”. It is an inspiring tale of a bible college student who wanted to find out if he could be content in all circumstances, and immersed himself in the American Homeless culture.

  2. Jim

    This rather reminds me of Mary and Joseph finding Jesus in the temple. This kid’s common sense might not be too well developed yet, but his heart and his literary skills seem bigger than life. Thanks for sharing…….

  3. Rich Post author

    Thanks, Josh, for the lead on a good book. I’ll add it to my neverending list of titles to watch for!

    Thanks, Jim, for the reminder: I, too, thought of that scene where Jesus slips away to the temple. I even thought about mentioning it–but then I thought, there’s a qualitative difference between the sinless son of God obeying his Father’s directives versus a sinful teenager following his conscience.

    But, still. Yeah, nice parallel.


  4. tenacity

    Do a little Googling. The whole world is talking about this kid, and people from Switzerland to France to French Canadia seem to have a general consensus: if more young people decided the human condition is worth more than their money, ealth, or safety, the world would be a very different place. Or, as many people have agreed, “the kid has serious stones, man.”

    I’m not saying it was bright, but it was brave, and an example to the materialistic humans in this world that the truth is impossible to decipher from a distance.

    He’s a young man now — he’s old enough to take his life and future into his own hands. People his age have been killing other people in wars for centuries — what would happen if more of them faought for peace?

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