This was originally written and posted in my blog on March 21st, 2003, the day after the USA invaded Iraq. Three years later, US forces are still there. This was never meant to be a comment on the rightness or wrongness of the reasons for the war, but on the act of war itself. I node it here to remind myself (and everyone else) that there are people who do not care why they are in a warzone -- they just want it to stop.
You almost get to believing that this is silence, after a while.
The pervasive electronic hum from the computers and light fixtures is such a constant element of your environment that eventually you don't notice it. So it's silence, you think, broken only by the occasional call, hours apart.
No place where humans are is ever silent.
You go outside for a cigarette break, and again you think, this is silence. You've forgetten how to hear the cars on the main street a block away, the pigeons chirping to themselves.
You wonder what it would be like to have this pseudo-silence broken by the sounds of a city under siege. Troops heading towards the city walls a street away, shouting orders to each other as they follow behind the truck carrying ammunition. A total lack of the sounds of the birds you've gotten so used to, conspicuous only by their absence now. Periodic explosions, as the aggressor wears away at the walls, trying to break their way into your life. The crackling noises of fires in the streets, souvenir of an air raid earlier in the day, and no resources to spare to smother the blaze. The air reeks of scorched rubber and flesh and wood, inside and out of every building, and no relief to be had anywhere, until you've forgotten how to smell the background scent as well.
Is it possible to forget these sounds too?
You pray for rain, to dull the sounds and douse the flames and wash the air clean, if only for a few moments until it all crowds around you again. You pray for rain to wash away the fear that the next missile will land on you, or your mother or brother, or your best friend or your boss. You wonder if it was really only yesterday that you lived in a country that wasn't at war, in a city that wasn't under attack.
And you remember that you do. And wish everyone else did too.