Posts in: EN380

The Documentation of War

The dominant narrative tells and shows us that war looks like…

WW1. WW2. Vietnam War. Bombs. Guns. Men. Death. Enemies. Tension.

Glory. Honor. Power. Protection. National security. Memorials. Veterans. Social Mobility.

Beyond the romanticized documentation of war, war is scary as it affects everyone and all aspects of life. The US is an empire that has built its status and power through its military. This give-and-take relationship, in which the US military “provides” the resources to “improve” the quality of life in the foreign land while dispossessing the native people is a traumatic, painful, and violent experience. In the words of my block 6 Professor Nadia Guessous, living in America gives us the “luxury of distance” from war. In our day to day life, we do not hear or see planes flying above our heads – ready to drop a bomb anytime; we do not hear or see bullets piercing through skin nor people bleeding to death; we do not hear or see frantic cries for help. And with this “luxury of distance”, we somehow become normalized to think people who are not directly involved in combat wars are safe and well-protected. War is not always about direct combat. As Dolma mentions in her post, “Asian American in the Time of Coronavirus,” war can be used as a metaphor to describe intangible “enemies.”

War stories are references that we often rely on to catch a glimpse on how it affects the physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing of people with war memories. But how do we know what is a “true” war story? For all we know, the author could have written from his or her imagination or draw from memories with missing pieces and made-up experiences. The truth is complicated and we should be skeptical with the information we consume, especially if it fulfills our expectations that the story is written by men (as the majority war stories are) and about someone who participated in combat. Rather, peeling off the layers of war can show us that war stories are so complex. They can be about familial relationships between the parents who experienced war and their children, about the intergenerational trauma and identity struggles, about the different silences and sacrifices made, about emotions that are hard to express, about militarized spaces and intimacies, about racism, and more. As Tim O’Brien writes in “How to Tell a True War Story,” a “true war story is never about war.” I thought something my classmate said was very endearing – if we are so caught up with finding the “truth,” we will “miss the beautiful irregular mundaneness of these stories, how they speak so closely to our hearts.”

Asian American in the Time of Coronavirus

tw//death and violence

Last month, an Asian American family, including a two year old and a six year old, were stabbed in a Sam’s Club because they were thought to be carriers of the coronavirus. I remember reading the news and shaking it fear, realizing just how bad it was going to get from here on out.

It’s a little weird to be in a class about Asian Americans during a pandemic that people are so lovingly calling the “Chinese Virus”. How am I supposed to learn while the world is literally on fire? How am I supposed to function knowing my parents get attacked for being Asian at work? How am I supposed to function on finishing an assignment when so many people are dying?Don’t get me wrong, I love my class and am so grateful that my professors have been so understanding and kind, but I am one of the lucky ones. So many classes are trying to carry on like “business as usual” (not just at CC), but there is something that is just so ironic about the world expecting people to be “productive” right now.

However, even with the chaotic state of the world, there is something grounding about being in this class. On our first day, we talked about the metaphorical “war on the coronavirus”. War metaphors are fairly common; the war on drugs, war on poverty, and now the war on the coronavirus. Although the initial intentions behind these movements can be contested, they have all become wars that will disproportionately hurt those who are already vulnerable.

COVID-19 is no different. Instead of America focusing on preventing further spread of the virus and taking care of people, they have been focusing on who to blame. The coronavirus pandemic has made clear just how fragile America is, or better yet, how fragile the world is. Economies have fallen and people are dying, yet the the United States is worried about a “war” and refusing to give proper stimulus packages.

I know that staying informed during this time is important, but I want to kick and scream every time I open my phone. So in many ways, this class is a blessing and a curse.