March 16: Of Other Wars

I take a day off from the news. The real world itself reappears. Strangely, it resembles a dream.

On the streetcar, instead of checking the war news, I am free to gaze out the window. Shaking my head in disbelief, I realize: it’s spring. The greenhouse domes of Allen gardens gleam in a watery sunshine. The park is full of people: homeless, poor and Indigenous folks in the park proper, and the well-off fenced into a dog park, with their well-fed pets. I think: we are so lucky to live in peace – though of course there is little peace for most of the bodies inhabiting this park. Peace, then, is also a dream.

I am on my way to the university. In the classroom, my students speak with fervour about a different war, their war to maintain dignity and resilience within a racist institution. We are reading and talking about Black archives, history, memory. Official histories that do not embrace them. Pedagogy that does violence to their self esteem. They tell me about media history courses that barely acknowledge the existence of women, let alone of brown and black bodies. As a dyke in the academy I know what exclusion can do to a body and a soul. Fortunately they are part of a generation that acknowledges the fragility of mental health within racist and sexist culture, and that alone will make a difference because, hopefully it means they will not blame themselves.

Compulsively, I return to the news that evening. It just doesn’t make sense anymore, to inhabit the mindless, corporeal world of the here and now.

Lviv, where my brother and many of my colleagues have relocated, has been bombed. Things are getting worse in Kyiv. Podil, neighbourhood artists: also bombed. Small villages, like the one where my mother was born, now full of elderly who lived through World War 2 and communism: bombed. Many of the villages are being used by the occupiers as missile launching pads. Feminists in Kharkiv are mourning one of their own, a queer woman who was killed while fighting in the territorial defence.

My cousin and her family have escaped to northern Poland, by the Baltic Sea.. R writes: There are no bombs here. only empathy. And ocean. 

There seems to be no hope for protection from NATO. My brother, a media pundit, says it’s a waste of time to even speak of it. A Kyivan women, quoted in the New York Times says of NATO: They are hiding behind the bodies of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians. The newspaper notes that she is a cashier who writes screenplays. I think about the stories she’s been dreaming up while standing behind a cash register day after day, the fragile hopes there. Now she lives in a subway station because she doesn’t have the strength to go back and forth to her apartment. I hope that the stories still live and breathe; still inhabit her body.