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  • Writer's pictureChar Seawell

Thinking about…

In the trauma of war, soldiers cannot avoid deep emotional and physical scars that come with being on the battlefield.  The physical injuries can be treated and hopefully rehabilitated, but the wounds of the soul often are left to fester unexamined and unresolved.

And so soldiers come home, and many become walking time bombs in their own families with no way to process their experiences in a culture that teaches seeking help is a sign of weakness, especially in the macho culture of the military.

But lately I have been thinking about the effects of war not just on soldiers but on the civilians caught in the crossfire, especially in these days when the drums of war beat constantly around the world.  And that has caused me to reflect on my mother’s experience living in Frankfurt, Germany during World War II.

My mother was working in Czechoslovakia when war exploded in Europe. Concerned about her family, she stole a bike to return home, riding at night and hiding in ditches during the day time to avoid encountering soldiers and being captured.  She witnessed Russian soldiers hanging from trees and other horrors I will not detail here. Once, when the air raid sirens began, she raced to a bomb shelter only to find the doors had just been locked. She pounded in desperation as she looked up to see a rain of bombs coming in. Only a gatekeeper who took pity on her broke the rules to let her in.  Her stories were always told in a detached, emotionless way, as though she were reading the captions on a movie screen as the scenes rolled by.

But she survived.

I think the trauma she experienced on a daily basis in a drawn out and devastating war would have to have been so profound that it could not be processed. To this day, I believe her parenting style, or lack of it, was reflective of the survival crises she had to deal with daily, never knowing if today would be her last.

And now in our current time, as I watch the nightly news, I think about the effects of war on other ordinary citizens like her as the scenes unfold before us every day of nations engaged in war.

I think about the Ukrainian cellist who created beautiful accompaniment for several of our song recordings who posts pictures of his beloved Kiev on his Instagram account.  Pictures of bombed buildings and piles of rubble from the window of his apartment appear in his feed.  There seems to be little left of the city he loves.  I picture him composing as the bombs fall and the cries of friends and neighbors fill the air, and I wonder about the wounds in his soul as he seeks solace in his music.

I think about the ordinary citizens caught in the crossfire in Palestine as the death toll continues to mount with no end in sight.  An entire race of people is disappearing before our eyes, innocent men, women, and children, whose lives have no meaning to politicians hungry for power and revenge.

I think about how years ago, Tim and I visited the city of Bayeaux, so he could pay his respects to the men and women who died on D Day liberating the people of France.  Black and white photos of that “freedom day” filled many of the restaurants, and we were told of the continuing gratitude of the people of Normandy for our nation’s sacrifices to help people we didn’t even know.

Americans were revered there for their selfless dedication to the cause of freedom and democracy.

This morning as I watched the news, I  wondered what thoughts would be passed down about us by Ukrainians in the future? Will they tell tales of our sacrifices to help them remain a democratic state?   Or will they remember how American representatives chose support of a tyrannical Russian dictator whose goal was the total subjugation of a once free people.

And I wondered what thoughts would be passed down about us by Palestinians in the future, if a Palestine still exists?  Will they remember that we sacrificed to guarantee them their own land and a chance at prosperity and safety? Or will they remember how we refused to acknowledge the genocide that was unmistakeable and turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to their suffering?

Every ordinary citizen caught up in these wars, through no fault of their own, is giving birth to generational trauma. Their wounds will deepen and fester under rough scabs forged in the fires of hatred and violence. And in some distant future, those scabs will bleed, and I fear these victims will not be posting memories of our compassion and sacrifice as a nation.

They will speak only of our cowardice.

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