By Millay Freschi
“I learned early on that war forms its own culture. The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug, one I ingested for many years. It is peddled by mythmakers- historians, war correspondents, filmmakers, novelists, and the state – all of whom endow it with qualities it often does possess: excitement, exoticism, power, chances to rise above our small stations in life, and a bizarre adn fantastic universe that has a dark and grotesque beauty. It dominates culture, distorts memory, corrupts language, and infects everything around it, even humor, which becomes preoccupied with the grim perversities of smut and death. Fundamental questions about the meaning, or the meaninglessness, of our place on the planet are laid bare when we watch those around us sink to the lowest depths. War exposes the capacity for evil that lurks not far below the surface within all of us. And this is why for many war is so hard to discuss once it is over.”
Chris Hedges, War is a Force, Page 3
We did the War and Peace Exhibit this weekend on Four Bridges. It was so powerful made even more so by my journey through this week’s reading and the Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace by Maxine Hong Kingston book included as optional text. My mind is drained of anything except the stories and the images come to life through the exhibit. Anything that I could put together now as an essay would only be filled with the questioning of a soul in transition. My part in this? Whew. That’s too big a question for a girl on the ground with her breath knocked from her body.
About 6 months ago a girl from an African nation found me on Facebook. I think she found me through the “End Gender Violence” group where I had posted something on an event that we had in the late summer. She’s 17 and part of a growing number of girls her age that have tried to keep themselves from early marriage or the sex trade in a country that has been ravaged by war. She lives in a beautiful city that gives of an air of high elegance. But she stands at the glass. Her mother and her sister were ripped away from her during the last uprising, war, governmental inconvenience, - whatever you want to call it and she has never really recovered. Her father turned to booze, as many veterans do and neglected the rest of his dwindling family. She moves from couch to couch, tries to keep her mind sharp with books (it’s $300 a month for her to go to school) and she hangs out with her girlfriends that fight the same battles. One by one she watched them make that choice to shut out through artificial means the rush of grief and fear that must crowd their sleep. She too is a veteran of the wars she and her family have endured.
She sent me an email yesterday, in the middle of my running about with this event and asked me if I still believed in love. I had a hard time answering her and even as I sit here now, in the retelling, my eyes well with tears of fear. God, I hope so is what I wanted to say. But do I know? I don’t know. It’s so hard to sit here in this aftermath….a bomb shelter from my own journey through war and peace and believe in something as pure as love.
The exhibit, this course is full of the terrible things that we do to one another in the name of war. Collateral damage, casualties…heroes. Heroes? Really? That’s almost funny to me now except when I think of all of the community’s scars that these heroes are left with.
Love? Where is love in that? Maybe that’s what makes war so hard to understand. It’s like it’s an absence of love. Didn’t Chris Hedges say that? – That the antidote to war is love? Maybe him, maybe another of the billions of expressions that are almost too much. I read the material a few times. It’s all swirled together in the poetry, music and reflection of our times – our wars – images that are burned into me through this journey – with you and that journey there – with them. I’m all full of lines – and question marks? I am broken strands and I’m wondering where this girl makes her place in all of that.
Can I start this over? Can I make only one statement in answer to all of that and call it good? I swear I read and I got….oh believe you me, I GOT all the meaning from the assignments. And it can all be summed up in one statement…not a fact or a truth or some academic work that I can reference. Just something I know.
The antidote to war is love.