As with any war, there is a very big difference between watching it on a TV screen
on the evening news, from a recliner in your living room ( and forming opinions) and living it with all your senses; the smell of gunfire and explosions burning nostrils, the sound of bombs piercing vital organs inside you, the sight of destruction and death, the terror of everything you’ve known disintegrate into a new reality, one so unbelievable that you have to remind yourself, yes, you are awake. And you wonder where did all these people come from, where were they just yesterday when the streets were so safe, the kind of safety you feel with familiarity, when you brought with you home only the smell of flowers from alleys you walked by, when the biggest worry you had was Algebra.

I believe for civilians there is a tipping point, after which one doesn’t care who is right and who is wrong, who did what to whom first, when majority of people want their everyday stressful life to come back and give them ulcers because that was heaven and this is hell.

I was lucky to call Beirut home, a city on the Mediterranean sea, rich in color, rich in culture and history, with its beautiful boulevards, the stone buildings with the shutters inviting all to experience the love and friendliness that the local people held in their hearts. A place, tourists called heaven.

Yet, a place so beautiful, became the playground for powerful forces turning it into rubble in a few years, during the time I was growing up with such a rosy view of the world, no knowledge yet of what evil is, or how easy it is for humans to morph into savages. We are a violent species; we cover our nature in clothes. Those who survive wars carry the scarred memories in their blood, circulating like a chronic disease. We live cautiously, we live a day at a time, and oh how we accumulate things we think we might need one day. Nothing is taken for granted. We live with the sense that the other shoe might drop any moment, so often we are on guard, carrying in our eyes a different understanding of the fragility of life.

So here I am today, safe on a recliner, in my living room, watching on a screen others in that region live a war, turmoil, displacements, uncertainty, and destruction. And the lesson learned is that there is no lesson learned when it comes to violence, if there is, it is short lived in our memory. And the nostalgia hits me in waves, for a time when I hung clean laundry on the roof of a five-story building and looked over a city throbbing with beautiful energy, soaked in the Mediterranean sun, without any knowledge yet of peace or war, just a normal life with no lines drawn either side.

– Silva Merjanian

© 2015, nonfiction, Silva Merjanian, All rights reserved

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