Monday, March 4, 2013
Ruminations and revelations
"War, your dad dying, coming to Australia...sheesh. You should write a book."
Who says I'm not, I think with a cheeky smile, pondering the tome I've been working on for years and putting off, and working on and putting off and...AND-and-and.
On Saturday, we performed at the BMW Edge Amphitheatre on Federation Square (smack-bang in the centre of Melbourne, for those not in the know), i.e. the choir we sing in. I had a soprano solo that I thankfully nailed, we sang all our compositions beautifully and, according to people in the audience, we wowed them big-time (and even made some people cry, heh). All of the Serbian compositions we sang are particulary haunting and ever since the concert I've been haunted by insidious memories of that which seldom rears its ugly head.
And so I read about it, war.
As if I haven't read about it a million times before.
As if it hasn't made me want to vomit when I do.
As if I haven't lived it.
It's a hollowing, shitty feeling when you read about others' experiences in the war while attempting to deflect from your own; when you know that at any given time from 1991-'95 people of all ethnicities in former Yugoslavia were suffering in one way or another. It's unnerving and infuriating and...well, it's heartbreaking, really. Agonising. There are no better words to describe it and maybe even these words don't suffice; they're just pale, subpar descriptors. But as you read, you're trapped inside a stop-motion film and you struggle to extract yourself from it. Maybe a part of you doesn't want to because you're terrified of forgetting that which was once a deeply sorrowful period from the not-so-distant past.
And so you write and you write, OH how you can't stop...! You endeavour to capture exactly what was (knowing you can't, not really) in the hope that it'll make a difference to somebody, anybody. And, hell, maybe it won't; does it matter? Maybe it's just enough that you've expunged those demons from yourself, tackled them down onto paper or the screen; they're tangible now, the demons. There they are in all their blackness and ugliness. You see them before you occupying a space where before they occupied the intangible in your mind.
I read people's stories, stories like and unlike my own.
I cry, I ache for them. The injustice angers me.
I mean, my God, we're all people; we're flesh and blood; we hurt and we laugh and we sing and we love.
God help me if I were to try and make the pain of my nationality, "my side", greater than the pain of any other. What, is it a competition? And yet, the sad thing is, to some primitive, chauvinistic assholes, it's exactly that. It's like they're in a race: they're competing with each other and trying to outdo the other, and they don't give a shit about the fact that people, INNOCENT people, suffered on all three sides; no. As if that's not the most tragic thing. Or they think only the suffering on their side matters. They circle one another like wolves, peering and snarling, thinking the worst and applying it across the plain, and if you believe in a hateful lie enough eventually it becomes your truth, and then there's nothing easier than to espouse hatred and have it pump through you like blood, to course through your hands and fingers until they're around a neck, clawing and trying to extinguish and snuff out.
And those chauvinistic people haunt me the most because they exist. How do you identify a wolf in sheep's clothing? Sometimes it's easy and blatantly obvious, and other times they jump out at you when you least expect it.
This terrifies me.
Is it possible that I was braver when I was a kid going through a war so very beyond my control? Or is it just that, back then, we had no choice BUT to be brave, whether young or old? Living in a warzone was our status quo.
You know what else kinda-sorta terrifies me?
When people jokingly mention about the world being "on the brink of World War III" (God forbid) or some such, because, well, I fear I wouldn't survive another war, emotionally. That I wouldn't survive the sound of shelling and wailing emergency sirens and tanks and...and-and-and.
But maybe I'm not giving myself enough credit?
There are some things war can't force out of you or destroy within you, miraculously enough. Sometimes, even when you're broken, it doesn't BREAK you. It doesn't get to break you. Even when you're certain it will forever be your kryptonite as the innocuous sound of fireworks in the night sky makes you flinch, twenty years later.