The Woman Who Could Have
April 28, 2004
By The Plaid Adder
So, we are bombing Fallujah. But according to the US military, this doesn't necessarily mean the cease-fire is over.
Some things just don't deserve a rebuttal.
I started an online journal on March 18, 2003, a couple days before we began bombing Baghdad. The offensive began on March 20 but we didn't really get the full-on "shock and awe" until the 21st. Here's how I registered it in one of my entries for March 21, 2003:
I'm watching live streaming video on CBS.com. At least Dan Rather has a name for this: 'deeds of carnage.'
The footage is coming, actually, from Al Jazeera. I can only IMAGINE the accompanying commentary.
We'll never see the bodies. We don't need to. We all know what happens when a skyscraper collapses.
No, please don't bring in the Pentagon expert..."this is the much advertised Shock and Awe," he says.
I *am* going to puke.
Oh my God. This is awful.
13 months and change later, we are bombing Fallujah. I am not watching live streaming video. I've seen one still photo of clouds of smoke rising from the city on CNN.com and that is enough for me. I can't fucking stand it any more.
But of course I will have to stand it, won't I. I will have to go to that meeting in an hour and pretend my job matters, and I will have to get up tomorrow morning and go to work again, and this renewal of the most horrific phase of the conflict will have to recede into the background because if I allowed myself to really feel the anger and grief that this stirs in me then I wouldn't be able to go on with my daily life.
And being a human being and therefore selfish I want to go on with my daily life, despite knowing that thousands of miles from here my government is preventing hundreds of people from going on with theirs.
13 months later it still strikes me, the unbearable injustice of geography, the brutal juxtapositions of globalization. I could have been born in Iraq 35 years ago instead of in the US and my life would have been completely different. I'm sitting here in a clean office with working power and a relatively new computer typing in thoughts that have been shaped by a Godawful number of years of higher education, with a view of blue skies and green grass out my window.
Somewhere else, at exactly this moment, a 35 year old woman who could have been me is watching American bombs shatter the city she grew up in. That woman is not going to go home tonight, as I will, and make one of the five relatively simple dishes she knows how to cook and listen to the Cubs game while she does the dishes and waits for her partner to call and tell her about the first day of the conference she's attending.
That woman will be searching through the rubble for signs of her family, or helping her neighbors carry their dead out to one of the new makeshift cemeteries, or lying pinned where she fell by fallen masonry. That woman does not deserve the hell that her life is right now any more than I have ever done anything to deserve mine.
Injustice is the currency of the global economy. This is just how it is. I know that, but my heart refuses to understand, and it keeps rejecting the knowledge. I get tired of having it hit me every time like a new blow that leaves a new bruise. But what I'm really afraid of is that I will accept it, and stop believing that things could ever be different.
There are times when I wish I could talk to the woman who could have been me, but is in Iraq instead. But then I don't think we would have much to say to each other. She would only be human if she hated me for going on with my life while hers is on fire. And frankly what could be less useful to her now than a chat with an American who may understand that what's happening to her is abominable, but has not been able to do a damn thing to stop it?
When I started the journal it was my intention to put something in it every
day. I didn't keep it up at that pace for very long; by July of 2003 I had more
or less decided that wouldn't be practical. But I guess every spring, when the
bombing begins again, I'll go back to it, marking the days one by one, the days
that drive my country farther and farther from the rest of the world, the days
that bring love and comfort and prosperity to me, and grief and pain to the
woman whose skin I could be standing in now, whose eyes I could be blinking
as I watch the breath of destruction fire what remains of the street where I
The Plaid Adder's demented ravings have been delighting an equally demented online audience since 1996. More of the same can be found at the Adder's Lair.