Reflections on a Past That is Always Present
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I am building my career on the loss of a man named Stojan Sokolovic (and on the loss of many millions of others, that is to say, Others, who may or may not resemble him). And one night, he told me: "You write about violence – you say that fear is a violence – that the things that cause fear and insecurity are violences. But you do not know how that fear sits like a bear on my heart. You talk about fear, as though you understood what it tasted like – what it smelled like – that electrified, trembling scent of mortar dust and artillery shells. You talk about guilt, but you look in from an angle that does not allow you to see it well. Violence must be quantifiable in your world. It must count bodies, burned houses, livestock, and graves – lost libraries, churches and synagogues, mosques. It must count the flood of refugees driven across the border from their own fields into those of others – into fields that do not want to take them. There is no scale with which to weigh the contents of heart and soul. And so, you can identify ‘victims,’ but you cannot ever really know what violence the committer of violence has done to himself, and you have not bothered to theorize that. No one watches as he sleeps to see if he cries out, or if he weeps, and no one has devised a gauge to look behind his eyes. No one wants to talk to those who hid behind the artillery wearing sneakers because their army did not have proper boots for them. No one wants to ask them if they will ever be alright again, trapped as they are in this life, and hemmed in on all sides by the measure of their own responsibility. You do not see it, because you have never been consumed by fear. If you had heard our wailing – killer and killed alike – you would say something other than what you are saying at your seminars and your conferences. I don’t know what it would be, but I know that it would not be the same..."