Around the globe the world is settling in for a good night’s sleep. Moms are sneaking by barely closed doors listening intently for giggling or snores. Dads are turning out lamp lights and kissing good night. Teens are huddled under their comforters the pale blue glow of a cell phone face illuminating their expressions as they text each other about American Idol. Everywhere people are buckling down for a good night’s sleep.
Not this little girl. This little girl, we’ll call her Jenna, has a lullaby that includes the whir of bombs. Mortar shells that cruise through the air and whiz by the bamboo shack she calls homes into the center of her town. Her bedtime story is spent ducking and running as bullets spray through the air like metal confetti, penetrating the tarp roofs and wooden doors of her neighbors. No time to grab shoes, a coat or a blanket. Time to run before the real war starts. Living in what the news media euphuistically calls a “conflict zone,”makes for a different type of bedtime ritual.
What is it like to live war? What is it like to be constantly en guard, ready at a moment’s notice to abandoned all that you have come to possess, to build, to love because this group has decided that group is in the wrong. Jenna lives in Mindanao, Philippines. For more than two generations Islamic terrorists have been waging war against the Philippine government for control of Jenna’s neighborhood. The daughter of a poor Christian farmer, Jenna knows nothing of negotiations and settlements. She can’t pronounce land dispute or understand autonomous region. She just wants to go to school without gunfire. She wants to play outside without fear. She wants to sleep without nightmares.
To sleep, to sleep, per chance to dream. It is a simple wish that most of us never have to list. Yet for Jenna and millions of others it remains elusive. Instead of dreaming they plan. They develop strategies and alert systems to weave in between breakfast and lunch. They create warning codes and secret pathways to safe havens outside of their communities. Normal takes on a new meaning.
Their normal includes a new language.
Bus bombings are described as, “Oh, that thing.” Bullets are used as marbles. Gun shots become Morse code: depending upon the caliber it could mean trouble is coming or get out now. Hospitals become second home. Evacuee becomes a name instead of a status. And war is just normal.
To live war is to know death, murder and mayhem. Worse though it is to forget hope. Hope is too costly in war. It can lead to dreams. To dream you must sleep. To sleep means to surrender.