How Dare They?

I am sitting here struggling with the story line for my next short story, one of a series of short stories centred around the fictive village of Stoke Fercroft, somewhere in an England which does not exist, an England which P G Wodehouse might have written about, but where people have smartphones, and the trains run on diesel or electricity, and not coal. And suddenly the futility of what I am doing hits me.

I write about ordinary people with ordinary lives, with hobbies, interests, dreams. They have children who go to school, and sometimes leave the village to join the outside world. They have places of work where they perform their jobs with pride in the fact that they have a job and that they try their best to do it well. They have a café and a pub where they meet their friends. They have houses, perhaps with a garden. Sometimes they will get sick, and go to the health centre, or maybe be sent to hospital, and some of them get better and return to their lives, and others do not, and their friends attend their funerals. There is an old-folks home for those whose children have left the village.

Their stories are about love, love returned or love unrequited, love of a parent for a child or a child for a parent; they are stories about tribulations and resolutions; stories about triumph over adversity. For something must make my story people worth reading about. And it occurs to me that these people are very much like people in general, you and I, and all our friends and relatives, and people we only know to nod to in the street, but who belong to our village, or our town.

They are like people who lived in Tripoli, or Mosul, or Aleppo, before the West brought them democracy. They had rich lives, too. They had children who went to school, they had places of work, they had cafés where they met their friends, and health centres and hospitals for when they were ill. They had homes, with or without gardens. They had parks. Very much like people in general, you and I, and all our friends and relatives, and people we only know to nod to in the street…

And then somebody made up lies about them. The people in Mosul have weapons of mass destruction. The people of Tripoli live in fear of their lives under a ruthless dictator. The people of Aleppo also. We must stop the people of Mosul from using their weapons of mass destruction on their neighbours or – horrible thought – smuggling them out to use in our country. We must protect the people of Tripoli and Aleppo from the brutality of their dictators. How? Not by removing the weapons or the dictators, but by bombing to rubble their schools, their places of work, their cafés, their health centres and hospitals, and yes, their homes, too. All rubble to celebrate the lies.

Go out in your garden, turn round and look at your house. Now imagine it turned to rubble. All your possessions inside – or rather under – the bricks and wood and glass. Maybe even family members lying there, too. Nowhere to eat your next meal, if you can find food to cook and somewhere to cook it. Nowhere to piss or defaecate in peace, nowhere to sleep. Look at the garden, mere crater holes where your cabbages and potatoes and roses once grew.

And get angry.

Look at your neighbours' houses and see them, too, reduced to rubble, perhaps one or two members of the families staring helplessly at their own rubble and thinking the same thoughts. Turn again and see the rubble which was the school your children would have gone to tomorrow morning. A little further down the road is the rubble that was your place of work, just across the street from the rubble which was the café or pub where you were to have met some friends for a game of darts, a pint of beer and maybe a plate of stew. And that pile of rubble over there, isn't – wasn't – that the health centre, close by the pile of rubble which was the hospital. Not many patients or staff got out of there.

Imagine all this and get angry. 

 And next time there is an election coming up, don't let the politicians lead you astray with talk of jobs, health care and welfare. They have not done anything except talk about these three items during the sixty years I have been voting.

Get angry.

Ask them instead whether there hasn't been enough of the lies, enough of the bombing, enough of the rubble, and what are they going to do about that? Will they just blindly go along with their fellow leaders in Brussels or London or Washington on the back of the next lie, to destroy the lives of richness of yet another group of people under piles of rubble? Send them out to Tripoli and Mosul and Aleppo to see for themselves what their lies have created. Leave them there overnight and come for them again around lunch time, or early evening.

Get angry.

Ask them how they dare do these things. How dare they destroy whole cultures and send the survivors to wander in the desert, whether it is a desert in the middle east or a desert they have created in the Balkans?

Get angry.

Or one day those people who ordered the destruction of Tripoli and Mosul and Aleppo may just decide that there is a lie to be told about my story characters, the people just like you and I. They might send the bombs to Stoke Fercroft.

And that would make me very angry.

© James Wilde 2015