Bear with me on this one. We will eventually come to how the American Civil War ties into this conversation, but I have a lot of other things to talk about first. And I should also warn: minor spoilers ahead.
I was moved to silence after seeing Rogue One, the first spin-off film of the Star Wars franchise. Even now, tears creep into my eyes as I remember how it shook me. I had heard reviews claiming that it was the first Star Wars movie to put the cost of war at the center of the narrative. I hadn’t expected it to be so true.
Last summer, while on a trip with the Eisenhower Institute’s Inside the Middle East program, I stood at the Israeli edge of the Golan Heights and heard a bomb explode across the border in Syria. We had spent the day within several miles of the war-ravaged nation with all remaining quiet until that moment, and while none of us wanted to admit it, we had the smallest hope that we might catch a glimpse of the conflict. However, when the sound of the detonation roared across the hills, excitement was replaced by a sense of fear and grief. I had lived a year in Gettysburg, yet I had never felt so close to a battlefield.
Gazing from the Golan Heights across the Syrian border held a certain degree of spectatorship; though it is morbid to articulate, we were all waiting for something to happen, as if conflict were equivalent with entertainment. Though it may not be just to compare our experience with the picnicking politicians at First Bull Run, waiting around for excitement and glory then fleeing in a panic, I certainly felt an observer of war. Perhaps many of us were too desensitized by the commonality of violence in our omnipresent media outlets to be affected. None of us felt particularly unsafe or even frazzled; we were too far from the sound to gauge whether any damage had been inflicted, and even if we had we never would have seen it. Nonetheless, the day was spent feeling a little more wary. Continue reading “A Middle East Perspective: Civil War Memory in Syria and at Home”