How do we speak to each other about war?

Updated: Mar 10

I studied International Relations at the London School of Economics after getting my Baccalaureate from the European School of Bergen, Netherlands. On paper, I am eminently qualified to preoccupy you with my opinion and theories on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.


But I won't.


Because since last week, one of my close friends is stuck in a warzone.


Throughout the past 3 decades, many of my classmates have been in armed conflicts, revolutions, and wars around the world, facing unspeakable hardship.


At no point during my years of studying history, foreign policy, and even strategies of war, was I formally taught how to speak with my friends when they or I are in real danger.


I do not remember a single class or lecture drawing attention to the disturbing fact that some of us (students and staff) who were studying together may one day (be ordered to) kill each other.


Look at each other


We might kill each other indirectly through our financial investments, our votes, and the actions of our nations.


See each other


We might kill each other directly with our hands, bullets, and bombs.


Breathe


And some of our cries for help will be met by silence. From each other, our alma mater, our governments.


Listen


Some of my classmates and teachers had already been in a war.


Speak


- What is it possible to say?


In one class, I was asked to pick whether I was a Realist or an Idealist when it comes to war. I couldn't. I am a human. That answer would not get me a high grade on my paper.


- What is it necessary to say?


My friend from theatre class is learning how to shoot people with an AK-47.


As have others before him.


- Who's next?


My heart aches


It took me much longer than I hoped to write this post. I was scrambling for words which could help my friend heal wounds caused by bullets. As darkness descended outside, I had to face the darkness inside me to make room for light.


Because by acknowledging our capacity to kill each other, we can set our intentions on supporting each other to survive, live, and thrive! Every day, I learn a way to speak with my friends. With every message we aim to connect that what is threatened to be torn apart.


We need to learn how to have difficult conversations with our friends, families, and across borders. Because if we don't have them elsewhere, we will find ourselves having them at war.


Sculpture "Love" by Alexander Milov. This image shows two grown people sitting with their backs to each other. Inside them stand two toddlers reaching out towards each other.
Sculpture "Love" by Alexander Milov 2015. Photographer unknown.

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