Pictures From War
Pictures of war and people in it have always been a special testament to human resilience and tenacity. We may think they are pictures of weakness and greed and human animal tendencies, but I see them as images of strength and power of human beings, of goodness in some and it makes me feel strong in turn. When we think of war, a conflict, we picture destruction and death; we picture loss of dignity and possessions. We feel sorry for the victims caught in the crossfires of two sides struggling to gain power. It is always about what side will exude more power over a certain piece of land, a country, or a continent. It is never about religion or nationality. Don’t be fooled by the propaganda, don’t get caught in the feelings of the masses and think that for a second it is about who you are, it is always about how to rule, how to get wealthy and use resources that are there, by chance, on your piece of a land. Idealistic causes, unless they are about defending the country from an invader or an oppressor are always about ideals of gold and money.
Pictures of war are a reminder to me that the people in them are me, they are you, they led lives so similar to ours that we could transfer ourselves into the situations captured and almost see the horror that they’ve lived through. We could do it if we try. I try, virtually every day when an image pops up on my screen when I open the news sites.
One such image captured my attention yesterday. It was an image of a man in Aleppo listening to his record player in his destroyed bedroom. We can see the furniture; it could be my furniture, there is the bed (made up) with dressers and night stands. There are books and curtains and broken windows. The man seems unfazed by what’s around him but lost in the music thinking of his life perhaps as a young man when he courted his wife, walking by her house, waiting for her to appear, beautiful in a dress of red and gold, lips pursed, ready to receive his kiss. This image is so powerful and real. This picture, reader, is your grandfather reminiscing about the past, here in New England, in Oslo perhaps or Australia. He is you when you picture yourself getting old.
Another image that moves me every time is a picture of Meliha Varesanovic walking to work during the Siege of Sarajevo, 1995. She is wearing a dress, she has earrings, and her hair is curled, she has pearls around her neck, while a soldier with a gun stands on a corner. I hear Meliha worked every day of the war; she recently retired, a proud survivor, a proud contributor to the human society. Meliha is any career woman, wanting to look professional when going to work; she wants to exude confidence that she can get the job done. She cares about her appearance and her dignity. Meliha is inside me.
And the list of images is long. A cellist is playing in the burnt down library, and there are laughing faces of children playing in a destroyed building. Life does not stop, we are children, mothers, fathers, and our responsibilities are not lost in the face of destruction and death. Images of war remind me of human cruelty and greed, but they also remind me of how beautiful and strong humans can be. We never remember those kicking the victims in the pictures; we only remember those faces who exude strength and love and desperation. They are those who stay with us. Oppressors are easily forgotten, images of those standing fiercely in the face of danger are the ones that move us and make us proud. These images make us promise to ourselves that if we should face this type of a danger, we will persevere and prove to the world that we made a mark in this life, regardless how challenging and horrible it was.