In the Wake of War

The consequences of war.
IN THE WAKE OF WAR. A PHOTOGRAPH BY WENDELIN JACOBER.

Aircraft crowd the sky like a swarm of locusts, and what remains of the tiny villages on the edge of a green valley is rubble, soot, and serpent-like flames hissing toward the blackened sky. Where once stood a school with a flag hoisted is a gigantic pile of ash, and from it arises the unforgettable odor of burning tissue; the coppery, metallic, acrid smell of burning plastic. Who will mourn for the children? Their mothers and fathers who after a day’s toil would have waited at the verandah under the thatched roofs for their sons and daughters strolling home with tiny pink and blue bags on their shoulders have suffered a similar fate.

The flames devour the homes, the cattle barns, the stables, the weekly bazaars, the crops, and the nearby woods. There is no urgency in dousing the fires; there is nothing to be saved. All the eyes that might have had the pleasure to marvel the snow-capped mountains or the pale blue of an ocean or the tropic forests bathed in ethereal light, in lands far away from home, whose names they’d mouthed on some nights and dreamt of, are fated to stare at a cloud of smoke that floats above the ravaged land, shrouding the sun. Mornings will pass by, but not a single soul will awaken; imagine a long train chugging towards stations, waiting for passengers to board and depart as scheduled, only the train is empty and carries nothing but the sound of its approach. The evening takes on burnt orange and slowly the moon like a diseased eye appears to overlook the ruins. On another evening like this, if you were passing by the village, you’d be greeted with the faint laughter of girls playing hopscotch, the occasional barking of dogs being chased by boys, distant bleats of sheep hustled into the pen, the moo of calves, the radios, and the television sets blaring the evening news, the ruckus of drunk men playing cards, and the contained laughter of women gathered to discuss the day’s events. There is none of it now. Only an unfamiliar silence prevails.

Nothing can be said about history; torn shoes, a comb with broken teeth, a pail with a detached handle, a box of heirloom ornaments, a one-legged rocking chair, charred remains of a picture book, knick-knacks – flotsam and jetsam of ordinary lives pocketed in the ruins which will then be carefully examined, dusted and displayed in museums or auctioned to wealthy men. To whom did they belong? Who will return to claim these?

Who are we to take pride in a war that reduces homes to dust, forests to wastelands, rivers to poison, and humanity to ashes? Who are we to take pride in a war that takes so violently the lives of those who not even in the face of death could find grace?  


Perhaps this short essay helps you reflect on the consequences of war and how most of us have been taking pride in this mindless violence. With the onset of toxic news media, war has become a medium for people to project their inflated sense of pride and ego for their country – jingoism. How can we take pride in this mindless violence?

Here, I would want to share a video that has remained dear to me for years – a video by Exurb1a.

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