Saturday, July 11, 2009

The seduction of war

The breeze sweeping the F. Valley that day caused the pennons of D. to flap and flutter at full extension, the golden roses dancing on the violet cloth as if to taunt M. who viewed the scene from below with narrowed eyes. Other cities had sworn not to oppose him and he had passed them by. D. was in open defiance and too close to [the capital] to permit its populace to attack him from the rear. At his order the trebuchets began to hurl boulders against D’s walls. Their impact spread through the massive stone and shook the earth below the feet of the trapped populace, rising up their bodies and touching their hearts. Dread, perhaps the greatest weapon of war, was doing its work.
I do not look forward to writing the battle scenes. My preference is scenes describing physical settings or portraying emotional undertones.

Right now there is no escaping the need to narrate the course of this civil war. I try to do so with rapid vignettes, shifting from scene to scene and keeping the reader apprised of the progress of the several armies without dwelling on the horrors. Yet I must share enough of the horrors for the reader to experience the story.

I note, slightly startled but not surprised, that writing the war scenes quickens my own pulse. I feel energized in writing. This - even at such an intellectualized and fictionalized level so far removed from actual warfare - speaks of the seductive power of war, its lies, its combination of heroism and brutality, the way it cloaks destruction with alleged nobility.

As a writer I try to imagine the motives and emotions of the characters. What drives them to do what they do? Why do they respond to events in this manner or that?

I get caught up.

And my president reminds the people of his father's natal continent and the rest of us around the world of the bitter price paid for war.
Now let me be clear: Africa is not the crude caricature of a continent at war. But for far too many Africans, conflict is a part of life, as constant as the sun. There are wars over land and wars over resources. And it is still far too easy for those without conscience to manipulate whole communities into fighting among faiths and tribes.

These conflicts are a millstone around Africa's neck. We all have many identities - of tribe and ethnicity; of religion and nationality. But defining oneself in opposition to someone who belongs to a different tribe, or who worships a different prophet, has no place in the 21st Century. Africa's diversity should be a source of strength, not a cause for division.

And on how many levels may we apply this: "diversity should be a source of strength, not a cause for division"?
--the BB

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