karen shea, captain's log

war, innocence

Wed, Mar 02 2022

24 Feb - 2 March 2022

Crucially between the initial shock and when life resumes its heavy roll there’s the period when we make promises to ourselves, that we won’t let things go unchanged, an attempt at resolve.

It’s nearly 6 hours short of the hour marking a full week of war in Ukraine. Today I managed to work for half the morning before rushing out of my house to buy ibuprofen and travel toothpaste for refugees who will receive them in cardboard boxes labeled in Polish. I read this piece from Siarhiej Prylucki, currently sheltering in Ukraine, and was shocked at the line, "On the second and third days of the war, we are already used to the explosions and to the sounds of artillery.”

Two or three days? Do we get used to things faster the bigger, closer and louder they are, the hotter the rush for survival becomes? And what of the period of promises - do the promises shift from being thought to being felt?

I force feed myself live news coverage. Between the scenes of carnage, I watch European countries throw money into tanks and fighter jets like they're the last cans of food on the shelves, instead of the shiny toys they used to be. I watch debates in the EU parliament, speech after speech of impassioned calls for peace and declarations of freedom. I think, it was possible to believe in things without wanting them, and now, it’s no longer possible. It occurs to me that I’m seeing an entire continent lose its innocence, like milk teeth falling out one at a time, like in the nightmare you will never wake up from even after your mouth is just a hole of bloody stumps and your hands are full of your fallen white defenses. What innocence? The innocence of children playing on playgrounds after fleeing their country, the innocence of thinking violence will never visit you if you never choose it for yourself.

I bought a child’s sleeping bag today from a man in Prenzlauer Berg. He left it un-stuffed into its carrying sack, and I didn’t feel like telling him I didn’t care to inspect it as thoroughly as he thought I might because I don’t have a child who will use it. I’ll never know the child who uses it.

Stuffing it at home, I think of the child who had used it and the child who will use it, and I’m remembering my fifth grade classroom, when our teacher opened a discussion on the fiery collapsing events in far away New York City and allowed us to raise our hands to say what we had to say. My best friend told us that her dad was saying at home, “we should bomb the fuckers to hell!” Sam M. told us about how he noticed the eerie symbolism of the date while writing that day’s diary entry: the date itself an emergency call for help, the lines of the ones standing in the towers before they fell, the pause button on history crumbling from our reach.

9/11 is of course memed and maligned. Today it's most often misappropriated as a justification for violating our rights. It's also been mythified into an enduring memento that violence visits us whether or not we ever had a chance to know what is being avenged, that we don't know exactly who the fuckers are that the grown ups are talking about, but surely what they’re doing must be right, we must need guns and bombs, ‘cause if they say we gotta bomb the fuckers to hell, they must be right, they must know what they’re doing, they would never let anyone hurt us, that’s what they said, right? Right?