My first 40 hour work week in almost seven years completely obliterated the wars that have occupied my head during much of that time. Staying relentlessly busy and finding my way in a new environment, surrounded by strangers pretty much took all my time and energy the past week. By the time I got home, ate some dinner and did a few chores the day was gone and I was horizontal. They don’t call it work for nothing.
Late in the week I noticed the war was missing. Not that I had forgotten about it but that none of the many people I interacted with during the day made any reference to it. Nor did I see any sign of it in my new surroundings. I quickly understood how easy and necessary it is to put the war aside and live an ordinary life not thinking about the carnage waged in our name.
The war’s absence was also do to the nature of the office. I and my colleagues are paid well to do a job, so we do it. That’s why we are there. Those responsibilities will take precedence over something so remote as a foreign occupation (not remote if you have family and friends serving in the occupation but I don’t know of any such connections yet). Inside that office, I escaped the war.
If war taught me anything, it taught me to stay low; I spent the bulk of the week observing, learning the surroundings and office culture. It’s a pretty mellow place despite the serious work. I got rid of the necktie after the first day. After a week, I think I can identify my co-workers by name. In the meantime I had plenty to keep me busy and reason enough to ask people about how things work. I certainly had no reason to talk of war and occupation with them. Management and the staff who sat on my interview panel know of my activism against the war but since that topic is not part of the job, it did not come up.
Still, I feel guilty about ignoring the war, guilty that I have failed to keep faith with the many Iraqis and Americans who cannot ignore the war because war is their everyday life. I remember being amazed, angry and sad coming back to the States from Vietnam and seeing how normal everything looked. I’ve heard the same from this generation of soldiers and have read accounts of life under the occupation, so it seems wrong for me, of all people, to not pay attention to all the things that war is to so many people.
Come the weekend and some getting used to the new routine, the war is still with me. Its presence is much like Vietnam was for me during the many years I worked a regular job. I can push it away but not completely. Maybe I’ll have to go hiking again.
Maggie and I heard David Rovics at the waterfront park in Olympia Saturday evening. He’s a very good singer-songwriter and truly pissed about CheneyBush and all his crimes. The setting was perfect—open grass next to Capitol Lake and the Capitol dome glowing in the late afternoon sun. It was an impromptu fundraiser for SDS and the Olympia Street Medics. I also learned that the Port Militarization Resistance is mobilized and active in Tacoma as military vehicles convoy from the port to Fort Lewis. I may put the war aside for a few days but, it’s always there in my head and all around me if I pay any attention at all.
On Suday Maggie and I rode bikes to the waterfront and looked for salmon heading up the Deschutes River to spawn. We didn’t see any salmon but we did spot a few herons, a couple of otters, two raccoons and some herons. The otters were the first I’ve ever seen in the wild and were much larger than I realized. One was almost silver and swam its rear flippers moving back and forth like a fish tale.
I am glad I can enjoy that kind of opportunity without fearing for my life. In many of the world’s places such mundane pursuits would be reckless risk taking. I can never forget that.