This week marks the 10-year anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War. It is a momentous and solemn occasion, and one that also seems inaccessible to me. I clearly remember when the war began. I was in sixth grade. We discussed the first invasion force that took place on March 20 in class, and I remember thumbing through the local newspaper the next day after school with my mom. I knew it was something important—and I could tell from my mom’s strong reactions against the war that it was something I should be paying attention to—but I was not emotionally entangled enough to have any sort of visceral reaction. I finished skimming the news article, then put the paper down and returned to the issues that were more pressing for an 11 year old: finishing my math homework, going to my flute lesson and hanging out with my friend at the local ice cream parlor, where would catch up on each others gossip.
Although I was against the war while it was waged—supporting candidates who were against it and criticizing the Bush administration—I cannot say that I have ever felt truly engaged with the issue. It is a bizarre sensation of exteriority to something that plays a big role in defining the generation I grew up in. But strangely, I think a lot of Americans who never saw the war firsthand share those same sentiments. In a New Yorker blog today, George Parker writes about a new exhibit that will be hosted in New York for the next month entitled “Invasion: Diaries and Memories of War in Iraq.” Parker writes that although the images are personal and captivating, he also got the sense from viewing them that it is too soon to be seeing the Iraq War memorialized in a museum. After all, it is a conflict that continues to define America’s foreign policy and future, and cannot yet be put to rest behind museum glass.
“Anniversaries are uneasy things,” Parker writes. “They seldom correspond to a spontaneous state of mind, yet they call for an emotional response, and the required effort can leave you unsettled and dissatisfied.”
I agree with Parker, but in my case, I think addressing those unsettled and dissatisfied feelings are the closest way I can come to closure with the war, and to remember those people who did lose their lives or who are struggling to reintegrate themselves into daily life while post-traumatic stress still haunts their minds. War is a strange and bewildering idea and reality. For those of us who do not experience it firsthand, it is much easier to simply note the news articles and keep up with the facts without becoming emotionally entangled. But it is important—especially on a day like the war’s ten-year anniversary—to take a moment to really think about it.