Axe Gets Weepy

08.12.07

Categorie: Personal |

wib3.JPGThis time around it hit me at a Starbucks in a mall in central London. I was sitting there with my grande latte, killing time before seeing Beowulf at the Odeon, watching the distracted shoppers, the couples holding hands, the harried parents with their grubby kids. For no apparent reason I almost started to cry.

Sure, who’s a badass war correspondent now?

I’m a few days out of Mogadishu, and bound for southern Iraq in a week. For three years it’s been like this: back and forth between places like the U.S., the U.K. and Australia, where people are free, children can be children and everyone – man or woman; black, white or brown; Christian, Muslim or nonbeliever – has a shot at working, getting educated, finding a mate and making something of themselves … and places like Somalia and Iraq and Lebanon and East Timor and Afghanistan: raw, sometimes beautiful places that teem with people and possibilities and places that, at the razor’s edge of conflict, sometimes seem more real than their secure opposites across the oceans. But for all their character and potential, these war-ravaged places still Suck Hard. And over time I’ve come to believe that the brutality they represent is, frankly, normal.

So when I see people getting along, when I see them enjoying mostly unfettered romance, commerce and art, sometimes it strikes me as nearly miraculous. And I’m almost weepingly grateful to God, the Universe or Whatever for granting this little miracle, however briefly, to at least these few.

Of course, I’m insane. War and conflict don’t have to be normal – and in most places they aren’t. I admit I’ve got a totally distorted model of the world inside my head, a model where the wars loom large, threatening to spread like carnivorous blobs to devour the tiny, helpless, peaceful little countries that naively believe they can just get along without killing off their neighbors or some subset of their own peoples. Gazing upon this mutated mental globe of mine, I want to scream to those peaceful countries: “Buy guns! Buy tanks! Buy Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor stealth fighters! Arm yourselves! For war is coming, and it will destroy your precious, happy, little society if you don’t appropriate 1 percent of your GDP for weapons procurement in FY09!”

wib-19stub.JPGThen I blink, and check myself. For that paranoid attitude is often what causes wars in the first place. Truth is, all the supposedly peaceful societies that occasionally make me all teary-eyed like a little girl are, in fact, societies at war. Those shoppers in that London mall pay taxes that sustain one of the world’s most sophisticated militaries, which deploys thousands of people all over the world with many of the most lethal weapons ever devised, sometimes to kill people who deserve to die, but other times to kill people who don’t deserve to die at all, but who just happened to run afoul of someone else’s foreign policy. Just because the free world looks idyllic doesn’t mean it’s not monstrous in its heart.

And just because I’m a sucker for peace doesn’t mean that deep down, I’m not totally addicted to war.

I swore before leaving for Somalia that this was the end of the line. I’m flat broke. I’m exhausted. My nerves are shot to Hell. I should quit war correspondence now, while my luck and my health (barely) holds.

But who am I kidding? I can’t quit. Not unless someone gift-wraps me a lobotomy for Christmas. For I think I know things now, things I can’t forget, things that make shopping, raising a family and going to the movies seem entirely hollow, and wicked.

Don’t you see? I have to go to war. It’s the only honest thing to do.

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12 Responses to “Axe Gets Weepy”

  1. corey says:

    holy crap, david.

  2. ELP says:

    There’s no crying in baseball. Glad you made it. You did good.

  3. Foreign.Boy says:

    Interesting blog….
    Lets poke around dave’s head a little more :P

  4. Coming back to the world from a combat zone is always disorienting Dave. You need to relax for a few days; you probably shouldn’t blog while you’re unwinding because those ideas that seem so profound are just a minor version of Post Traumatic Combat Stress. Things will look better in a little while. Go have a few beers and maybe a woman.

  5. jim west says:

    Might take longer than a few days. Cure: go back to civilization and live your life. If you’re lucky you’ll work through it after awhile.
    The guilt at your good fortune, anger at the rest of us living our soft, comfortable lives in ignorance, and ugly memories are all normal.
    Different folks deal with it differently.
    ITMT, combat correspondence or war reporting is about as hazardous an occupation as I know of. Ernie Pyle, Dickey Chapelle and hundreds of more recent casulaties would so testify.
    Life is sweet, dude. Stick your head in the lion’s mouth a few more times and you’ll either lose it or get so jaded there will be no coming back.
    I reiterate: life is sweet. Go home. Get bent out of ahape about ecology or something.
    V/R Jim West

  6. Galrahn says:

    Screwed that up, ignore the above.

    Dave you keep up the good work sir. We appreciate your insights and courage to cover the world few want to see, but needs to be displayed to be understood.

  7. Ol'Grizz says:

    Dave – both sides, both worlds are real, and you need to get your head to where the bad real don’t keep ya from livin the good real. Ya can’t _tell_ the straights about the bad real, their world can’t accept 8 yr olds cutting drunk’s throats in in alleys. Get some buds who’ve been there, pop some brews and just pass around the bad memories with the beer. Read your stuff, and you tell it plain, but never think you can know what you know now without passing it around face to face.

  8. Michigan-Matt says:

    David, I spent 21 months in Central American countries working on a survey of American biz interests at a time when each country had faceless death squads and their handiwork litered the back roads, village squares and church steps. Twice back in the US for family holiday during that time, I had the same reaction as you.

    Two things helped me: keeping connected to a network of friends who existed b4 my project began and remembering that I was an interloper when at work. The rush of work was hard to disengage and I kept doing it for another 7 yrs in eastern Germany during the transition, in Brazil and SE asia… but it left me raw and vulnerable when back home or deep in western civilization.

    I took up rock climbing to grab a piece of that rush and return to normalcy.

    I hope you stick with this, because you are damn, damn good at it. But it has a toll and, functionally together, you are worth far far more than either the toll or the telling of these stories. Keep safe -upstairs and outside.

  9. demophilus says:

    Take care of yourself, David. You’re doing great work, but don’t crucify yourself on it.

    I mean, from the Mog to the ‘Dad? Jesus, cut yourself a break.

    IMHO, after Iraq you should consider a little chill out time — like, maybe Amsterdam, if they get a spell of nice weather.

    Stay safe.

  10. [...] David Axe gets weepy, but captures something I relate to. As strange as that sounds. Stay tuned for some news here soon. [...]

  11. Max Anderson says:

    I think you are missing Defense International a little more than you let on. But the fact of the matter is, it is in your blood sir. You are a full blooded reporter. Some of what you see in the front lines you do not type about because it is so atrocious to printor would be censored by underwriters. All that means is you were and are still on the hot scoop stories. Stay with it. It there are not people like you out in the world, who can we trust for the truth? Get some more r and r. That’s rich and rarely sir. I look forward to the Iraq report. max1mos111

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