November 15, 2023

War is Personal

As I continue each day to write about disaster and displacement, and how we go on after the unthinkable, I watch as millions more people worldwide are added to the rolls of those made rootless, stateless, homeless by war and weather. Those of us who try to care and help can’t work fast enough to keep up with the rate at which people are cast out and washed ashore.

Yes, “natural” disasters differ from war. Either war or weather may sweep or burn away everything you hold dear, but the storm didn’t come for you in particular. The fire didn’t seek you out and intentionally hurt you because of who you are, what you believe, how you look.

(Though the extent of damage may differ because of those things and the way you’re allowed to recover is likely affected as well. Disasters don’t erase our “isms.”)

Every disaster leaves a mark on our lives, a clear before and after line of awareness, a break in our storyline. Before we lost everything, and then after, when we restarted our lives and went on. If we were lucky enough to survive. The division in our lives, before and after our world was destroyed, will forever be with us.

War leaves another more cruel and lasting divide in our lives: we live with the sharp awareness that there are those that seek our destruction, those whose hate or fear led them to plan and organize to hurt and kill. The tidal wave didn’t come for *us* specifically but men with guns did. War is personal.

War and civil violence aimed at people because of who they are, what they believe, where they come from, how they look, leaves a permanent mark. Once you, or those you love, have faced down men in uniform with guns, you go on in life searching every face to discern which camp this person is in. You wonder how easily your neighbor might give you up. Accuse you. Write you off. It feels like your well being depends upon reading it right. The world becomes divided into those who hate you, or might, and those who don’t.

We don’t have to be in the midst of these conflicts to feel our anxieties increase. To experience the fear of being cast out, or a sense of dread at being the object of hatred and destruction. To watch as others like us are hurt in this intentional way is deeply and profoundly unsettling.

If we are lucky enough today to be out of an arena of destruction, let’s be exceptionally gentle with one another today. Tender in our words and actions. Peaceful in our gatherings. Let’s us give thanks.

And pray.

I write this for me. And for you.



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