Thursday, 18 October 2007

About World War III, or, Assorted Memories

It's funny because when I was little, we used to learn about World War II and pantyhose rationing and patriotic women working and the like, and I thought it seemed a little bit glamorous. Of course, it frightened me too: to imagine that my father could be drafted; to imagine that my life could become like Annemarie's in Number the Stars. But war, in general, was a far off and mystical concept, a bit like Queen Victoria. It was just another story. I never would have dreamed that my country would have gone to war within my lifetime.

Then again, it's not like I've really noticed it. It's been more than four-and-a-half years now since the usually-silent television turned on to bring us news we'd been expecting with consternation, reluctance, and dread for quite awhile: that we had finally begun our attack on Iraq. The next day, San Francisco's streets screamed; I left school at lunchtime to add my voice to the choir, to tell whomever could hear that hell, no, I wouldn't go, I wouldn't fight for Texaco. Then I went home to the suburbs for supper, and my life went on. It's been four-and-a-half years and I haven't heard a single air-raid siren, thank god. No one's been drafted; I don't know anyone, closely, who's in Iraq. Much less anyone who's died there. My food has not been rationed, nor has my pantyhose (not that I wear pantyhose), no! On the contrary! We've been told to buy more, more, more: after all, the way the common man can support the war effort is to Keep America Open for Business. Is this wartime life?

I guess if I were from Baghdad and not San Francisco, I'd have a pretty different story. My contributions to this blog would probably be a little bit less along the lines of "so like omg the other day on the elliptical machine..." and a little bit more along the lines of, "We then decided it was time to go out and wait for dad. On our way downstairs we heard a loud explosion, seemed like a close bomb car. We went out and saw the smoke, everybody was saying the explosion was in region A, exactly where I'd usually wait for dad." And maybe if my life were like that I would feel a bit more like the people in this video, and maybe if I felt so invaded and subjugated and angry, I would really resent someone like me.

But that's not the point. (Coherence has never been my forte; anyway this is perspective heaven, not the IB.) The point is that we Americans, even those of us who spend all their time reading the New York Times on the internet, have no real tangible sense of being at war. It's rather unfathomable, so headlines like "Bush: 'World War III' Possible If Iran Goes Nuclear" are more than just slightly surreal. World War III. It sounds like a bad science fiction novel. Listen to my illustrious president: "I've told people that, if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing [Iran] from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon." And how might we prevent that, Mr. President? If weapons of mass destruction can be found, so can "knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon". If war with Iran is deemed opportune, we'll probably find a way to word it.

In a way, I feel like the Iraq war is a bit like a mild urinary tract infection: you know it's there, but it doesn't bother you much, so you go about your business and try not to drink too much coffee in hopes that it will go away soon. The notion that it could become something as serious as a kidney infection is utterly absurd, kind of like a bad version of winning a raffle. One night, you wake up shivering, you can't sleep because you're so cold, you've got a tremendous fever, you try to drink a glass of water and throw up from the effort; the next day the doctor orders a CT scan which shows that your inflamed right kidney is wreaking havoc on your body. Sometimes I feel like I'm sixteen again (I don't mean in that I'm terribly, terribly awkward but that is true too): every now and then I get a sense that something very strange, very unfathomable, very distant, and very sinister is going to happen before too long, but for the most part, all I care about is boys, and Iraq and Iran are just names of places I read about in the news. I hope that the Iraq war will not spread to our kidneys, but I guess it will not be a surprise if it does.

4 comments:

Sofie said...

it's too early in the morning for me to write something sensible. i have read it, and now i will think about it, and later i will write something sensible.

jshim said...

Last night I had a nightmare that the UN officially marked the beginning of WWIII, and a lot of people very close to me got drafted or hurt.

After reading I wonder if there's this undercurrent of anxiety running through a lot of people around our age, but we've been so conditioned to ignore or tamp down anxiety on any level that we might not be paying as much attention to it as we should. And, more importantly, I wonder what specifically it is that I can do.

Sofie said...

i think that the US is so far away from the problems it tries to "deal with", so it is really hard for the common man to relate to the whole situation. plus, i guess that most people believe that huge world wars are a thing of the past, i mean, we've read the history and we all agree that horrible things like war should not happen again. the funny thing is, i'm writing this, thinking, no, we are not at war, but we are!
maybe this is an even worse war, because it only really affects the people who really can't do much to stop it. we can't relate to the war and maybe that's why it is not coming to an end. read; i don't fear for my life, so i'm going to sit on my bum and do jack shit. i think it is easy to have that attitude. and i think bush likes that a lot of people do.

Cara said...

Keep up the good work.