Bobo is a small yellow and white teddy bear bought for me by Dutch relatives on the one occasion I remember them visiting my country. I have him because of the war. The war changed many things. My grandfather had a brother and the war decided this arrangement should not continue. The war won this battle with slippery ease. He was bombed in his own barracks in his own country as he’d gone back to search for a replacement shoelace because his had snapped. I know a shoelace did not kill my great-uncle; the war did. Without the war, a snapped shoelace would not have meant the difference between dying in your twenties or your seventies. The Germans killed him but they are only men as we were and we killed their families too. The man who dropped the bomb has my forgiveness a million times over.
Back to the bear, my grandmother’s brother was also in the war and was stationed in Holland. He met and fell in love with a Dutch girl. She got pregnant, as girls do when you love them so much that you do things to them that might cause them to get pregnant. The Americans intervened. I don’t blame the Americans any more than I blame the Germans, although I do find it odd that they were supposed to be on our side. They brainwashed and tortured my great-uncle and forced him to leave the country, his wife, his unborn child. He spent his remaining years in a mental institution back home in England, finally dying in the 1960s. However, he begat a son, and his son visited my grandmother (the sister of his father) many years later, when I was born. I remember him arriving and I remember how wonderful his wife was and how she took me to the shop at the end of the road to buy me something, to leave something with the family her husband would have had. I chose Bobo and my grandmother who is now fifteen years dead named him. As I write this, he is less than four feet from me. I am now thirty-six years old and I have never once considered the idea of parting with that bear.
I didn’t go through it. I am not the one to talk. I am not Iraqi or Afghani or Somalian. But my family lost men younger than me because of war in the past. If you are reading this, you are most likely privileged enough not to lose your father or your brother on the whim of a leader. If you are reading this, do you not consider the fate of those not reading this and think for just a second?
Tags: bear, family, teddy, war
I got it back in 1993 during some of the worst fighting in eastern Bosnia. Tuzla, the city where I was working, was completely cut off by hostile forces. Even the UN found it difficult getting in. It was overcrowded with refugees from farther east. Food and clean water were short. But folks were resourceful. Teenagers organized raves almost every night in basements and underground parking structures. Despite the blockade, homemade booze and drugs were plentiful. One group organized a Rave Against War, asking everyone to bring something representing the situation. At the end of the night and to cover everyone’s return home. The “donations” were burned in a huge fire. They hoped it would distract the snipers. I saved this small toy AK-47; something to remind me of my experience when I returned to clean sheets, reliable electricity, and parties above ground in the US.
Tags: bosnia, memories, war
The saddest thing I own is my car… because it needs gas to stay alive. On Memorial Day I am not going to buy gas. A largely symbolic gesture on my part and many others to honor the fallen forced to fight and die over a war for oil. The next day I can fill up my tank. There is no next day for a dead soldier. That is the saddest thing of all.
Tags: car, gas, war