A Handful of Moments
I know. I know. I said I would try to go back to posting like normal, and this is still not normal. This is still pulling threads out of the massive tangle of thoughts in my head, because apparently I need to lay them all out on the internet.
So, anyway. A handful of memories, a handful of moments that I keep coming back to, that feel like they shaped and defined who I am.
Sitting on the floor next to the radio in my parents’ living room when I was a little child, legs pulled up to my chest and arms wrapped around them, listening to the news, hearing about the war in Yugoslavia. I don’t remember what year it was, whether it was early in the war or late, but I still viscerally remember the feelings, the sadness and confusion: why are grown-ups like this? How can they do this to other people? None of us children would ever want a war, would ever want to kill or seriously hurt other people. How can grown-ups forget that?
In a classroom at seventeen, watching yet another WW2 documentary. Watching a Nazi scientist holding a crying, screaming baby in his hands, testing how far its spine would bend.
I can’t think too much about this, because it still makes me nauseous. I don’t know why it was this scene in particular, but in that moment I understood that some people could really utterly disregard the humanity of another person. That they could hold a baby screaming in terror and pain and snap its spine with their bare hands in the name of “science”.
At some point in between, still more child than teenager, but becoming aware of politics as everyone was talking about the right-wing FPÖ getting into the government, and the sanctions from other EU countries that were concerned about this. (Cue the bitter laughter, because now they’re all going the same way.)
Hearing my parents talk outside the door to my room, about whether they should go to Vienna to join the protests against the government. My mother’s voice, too quiet to understand. My father responding, loud and angry and fearful, “Do you want to wait until they come to get Clown Brother?”
Clown Brother is disabled, and even then, I knew that that was one of the groups targeted by the Nazis.
That is the moment I understood it’s not over. It’s never over. It’s not in the past, to be looked at and moved on from. It’s in the present and it’s in the future, something to be watched out for and something to be fought against.
Hearing the news of the war in Afghanistan on the radio, immediately followed by cheerful, meaningless music, and thinking, “How can you do this? How can you talk about a war, about people dying and being hurt and then go on like nothing has happened?”
And this year, which feels like just one moment after another, watching the rising tide of hate in terrorist attacks and shootings and elections.
And wondering, every time: How do you keep living in a world like this?
Not in a suicidal way – I know how it sounds – but, how do you act? What do you do?
Because it feels wrong to keep on living like I always have.
But I don’t know what to do instead.