All we know is war; The War on Poverty, The War on Drugs, The-War-In-Iraq, The-War-in-Afghanistan, The War on Terror, a civil war in that country and a military standoff in that other country. Whether it is a movie, romanticizing combat and the carnage that dwells in the theater of war or it’s a news report: violent acts play out nightly on our TVs. Reporters speak of suicide bombings that obliterate hundreds of people in some far off country, and we’re unaffected. Footage of a nighttime firefight explode on screen as our troops engage the wretched insurgents in yet another town with yet another foreign name. Pictures of our service men and women, captured in happy and younger days, are displayed on the news after their death. Once a Solider, Marine or Airmen has been killed are they given a name and painted as a human being. Before their death, they’re nothing more than another twisting cog in the Mighty American Military Machine, cranking and churning away. Other times Reporters speak of a gang related shooting or a robbery that ended up a double homicide. Bullets fly and collect on these streets, riddling our youth with questions. Young blood drips from the curb as Police Officers tape off the area, starting yet another investigation into a shooting.
Their stare reaches through you. It plunges through your skin and takes hold of your bones. Their stare twists your bones with its haunting vacancy, dicing up your thoughts and tossing out your feelings. Their stare travels further than we can see. It travels to a place we dare not enter, and we pray we never see. It travels back to the tan streets that have been painted over with blood. It travels to their homes, their bedrooms, their kitchens: the places blown apart by tanks and bombs. Their stare resides in the places that sculpted their contempt and crafted their angst.
From darkened eyes, they watch a world we’ve stitched to perfection. From darkened eyes, they watch our brilliant world spin and twirl around the mundane. They sit and watch us live in this perfect little bubble. They watch as we pretend. We imagine, they would say, we exist in a different world, a place without war and famine: a place without problems or disease. They see us pretend, and they laugh silently. They watch us lie to ourselves, our neighbors, our children and our friends. They watch us lie, while they know the truth. They’ve seen the truth. They are the truth.
And we stare back. We stare back from cheerful and misguided eyes. We stare back, moving our eyes along their tattered skin and bloodied faces. We stare back, with hope burning in our chest. Hope that our eyes never grow dark like theirs. Hope that we always remain in our perfectly stitched lines and under our secure bubble. We hope that war never comes to our home, to our schools and to our street. We hope it stays in their hometown, where it can affect their lives and kill their children. We hope the war never comes home. We hold this hope near our hearts because we’ve seen the truth. We’ve seen war in their eyes. We’ve seen war in their bloodied faces and cracked skin. We’ve seen this truth, but we don’t accept it.
We’re all familiar with war; so why don’t we accept that it lives here, on our streets and in our towns? Why don’t we accept that war has come home? It lives the minds of the veterans, rotting their hearts with evil thoughts. It lives in the minds of the military families who have lost a solider, a marine or an airman. It lives in the eyes of the refugees we save. It lives in the ghetto, disguising itself as a bundle of drugs, a lost youth or a misguided police officer. It lives on our screens, in our children’s hands. War is here, war is home. So why can’t we accept the consequences, take away its glamour and scrub away the grit?