Of all the things this Russian-Ukrainian war makes me think about, I did not expect the catacombs of Paris to be one of them. And yet, now that they’re in my head, it makes perfect sense.

Almost six years ago, I visited those catacombs and wrote this, which perfectly conveys what I’m starting to feel toward the newest war in Europe:

I was not disturbed by the presence of the bones of dead humans. I mean, they aren’t that different from the bones of live humans, and I’m around the live ones constantly and I even have my own full set! I was not disturbed by how neatly and carefully they had been arranged, clearly meant to be looked at. I was not disturbed by how more recent people had capitalized on the bones of long-forgotten people. I was not disturbed by tourists making jokes, wondering how certain holes had gotten into certain skulls, and smiling for pictures.

I was disturbed by the fact that none of the above disturbed me.


You see? The desensitization to death, tragedy made for viewing, the few capitalizing on tragedy paid for by others, the foreigners making jokes and theories and getting photo ops without understanding the weight of what they’re looking at. Finally, my own brain adapting to all these fucked up things, allowing them to become normal, allowing me to move on with my life. I know it has to happen, but it feels like a betrayal to my fellow humans. And yet, I’ve done it before, for every tragedy and conflict and war I’ve already lived through.

To say war is an awful thing would be a lie. It is not. War is a convergence of many, many, unthinkably awful things. It is several times as many awful things as there are people involved. There are the recipients of awful things and the perpetrators of awful things and the puppet masters of awful things and many who are more than one. It’s so awful that it’s impossible for people to wrap our heads around it, and those who come closest to understanding are irrevocably changed.

I am nowhere close to understanding, so I’ll stop here and leave you with the hope that you never come close to understanding, either.


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