A Metaphor of War

The view from my office window looks down on a house with a flag on the front lawn.  It’s a consulate’s house, and today there are two painters working on the French patio door.  They are brushing the cross bars in grey, carefully lining the paint on the wood.  Their heads tilt to the sway of the brush.  Watching them is a good break from the pop-up letters and numbers on my computer screen.  I can imagine their faces, like children, focused on the lines and texture of their brushes on the medium.  It must be rewarding work, I think, from the relaxed poses of their bodies.   The painters are beautifying and preserving something of value.  Their tools and material of paper sand, brushes, buckets, scrapers, spackling paste, tapes, rollers, drop cloths – are for the intent of construction and not destruction.

 I usually start my day with reading the news.  Yesterday marked the anniversary of the war on Iraq over their presumed Weapons of Mass Destruction.  I digest the short paragraph which is general.  It stirs an inexplicable emotion, except for a wish.  I wish I had the guts to express how I truly feel about war, and specifically about that war.  I feel inadequate and invalidated to be specific about my opinions and feelings about any big issue, because I know it is not as black and white as reported to me, who lives thousands of miles from the source of the news.  The big issues are those that affect everyone.  But we don’t all want to be affected.  For me I don’t want to be affected, because that war seems unreal and hard to accept.  Maybe that’s why I can’t be specific, and bold to express my feelings and thoughts about war.   I can only describe my feelings as grief over a loss.  I don’t know yet what that loss is.  Perhaps it is one of these or all:  loss of innocence, loss of humanity, loss of sanity. 

 One of the topics about the Iraq war recently is the mass displacement and epidemic birth defects and cancer found among the population, and the cause is suspected to be the “US military’s extensive use of depleted uranium and white phosphorus”.  That is specific.  What is more specific is to see a picture of a newly born baby with more than 2 sets of arms and 2 sets of legs, and its internal organs formed outside of its internal cavity.

I remember during one of the lessons in a writing class.  The teacher talked about specificity and he presented it like looking at the multitude of faces of a cut crystal.  One face is described as “Metaphor is a tool to bring an experience of universality to the specifics of our story.”  I sat quietly, working.  Then my mind wandered away from the intensity.  The eyes shifted from the page to the view.  I spotted the painters, and I’m reminded of the headlines I read.  My subconscious has been quietly knitting at the images and words to make sense of the juxtaposition of construction to destruction.

 The brush paints up and down and side to side of the wooden frames.  Straight, neat lines contrasts the spider baby with its medusa appendages sprawling out of its torso.

 “Working with metaphor allows us to say a lot with few words.  It is a way of helping the reader to understand the underlying themes.  It can also be a way of making challenging issues accessible.”                 –  Al Watt (LA Writer’s Tribe)

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