29 March 2010

Palm Sunday During Wartime

Yesterday I took a walk "around the block" that turned into an eight-mile trek.  I started out late in the afternoon, knowing that there were still a few hours of daylight remaining and the possibility of more rain looming.  But the rain held out until I was literally around the corner from my apartment, and then the soft cascade turned into a torrent literally as I entered the doorway to my building.

Some girls have all the luck, eh?  

My walk took me through past the quiet facades of brick houses.  Inside many of them, families--some consisting of two or three people who may or may not have been related to each other by blood, others that were, in essence, miniature villages--were eating those Sunday meals that are neither lunch nor dinner because they encompass and eclipse both.  Nobody partakes in such a repast if he or she is living alone, and not many young couples or roommates do it.  In other words, it's not for those who "do brunch." The sort of Sunday meal I mean is, almost by definition, a family affair. And, as often as not, it follows said family returning from mass or some other religious gathering--especially one of a Sunday like yesterday, which happened to be Palm Sunday.

Even when the bustle spilled out of doors, the streets were still enveloped in that silence--proscribed and followed as if by some unseen, unheard command--that has sealed the people inside those houses away from the cries that, perhaps, they don't or can't see.  Or, by now those voices may be, as far as most people are concerned, mere background noise, like the shows that blare from their televisions during their meals.   

I first noticed that silence--that of damp Sunday afternoons--some time during my childhood.  It seemed to grow more intense, somehow, a year or so into the USA's invasion of Iraq.  By that time, armed Americans had been plying the valleys of Afghanistan for a few years, though it and the Iraq invasion seemed to have endured for far, far longer.  

Some of the funerals that resulted from those imperialist misadventures have, I'm sure, taken place in some along some of those streets I walked.  I saw more than a few flags and banners--and bumper stickers on the parked cars--that read "Support Our Troops" or "Semper Fi."  

What's interesting is that in those working-class Queens neighborhoods--home to many immigrants, some of whom are Muslims--one doesn't find the more overtly aggressive and violent messages (e.g., the bumper sticker that's a "license" to hunt terrorists and features a photo of Bin Laden with a target drawn over it) one finds in other areas.  Instead, people in the areas I saw today seem to have the idea that by "supporting" the troops (whatever that means) or "remembering" 9/11, they are showing that they are loyal Americans.  Given the political and social climate--and what it could become if the economy worsens--I can understand why they'd feel the need to do that.

So why am I talking about the wars or immigrants now?  I don't know.  I just got there somehow, just as I somehow ended up four miles from home on my walk yesterday.

Well, all right:  I think about those wars a lot.  The invasion of Iraq started not long after I'd begun to take hormones and was preparing myself to live full-time as Justine.  I recall understanding, for the first time in my life, that invading another country--especially if no citizen of said country has ever done anything to harm any member of the invading country--cannot be anything but an expression, on the part of the invaders, of profound disrespect for people who just happen to be different from themselves.  I understood, for the first time, that up to that point in my life, I had been part of the very structure--even if I were at the bottom-most rung of its ladder and owned almost nothing of its spoils--that not only carries out such invasions, but doesn't see them as such.

Of course, I wasn't thinking that during my walk--at least, not consciously.  There were only the silence of those streets, the dampness of the air and the rhythm of my steps, all of which somehow kept me walking.