A war on ev­ery front

The Dog Is­land crew ex­plore the Hal­i­fax In­ter­na­tional Se­cu­rity Fo­rum.


You are eight years old and to­day is the first day of fish­ing sea­son. Your fa­ther has fi­nally taken you out with him and even bought you your own pole. Though you’re too young to un­der­stand adult­hood, you can tell that this is how you be­come the per­son you hope to be. Your chest swells and your hands shake as your fa­ther helps you thread the rod. He guides your arms as you draw back. “Not bad!” he ex­claims as you cast for the first time.

Ex­cept it is not 1996. It is 2018 and it is 6:18am on a Satur­day. You awake from the dream, the last time you will feel hope. The Coast has given you and your fel­low in­ter­net ra­dio hosts press cre­den­tials for some­thing called the Hal­i­fax In­ter­na­tional Se­cu­rity Fo­rum, which is like comic-con for war mon­gers. At first you were ex­cited be­cause you thought you might get to touch a real gun or meet a mer­ce­nary. In­stead, you sit in a room full of TVs and lis­ten to ghouls on an­other floor talk about the mur­der of mil­lions in the most bor­ing way imag­in­able.

Bleary eyed you try to make sense of why two Greek boy scouts are stand­ing with Cindy McCain, the beer heiress and widow of failed bomber pi­lot/sen­a­tor John McCain. An award, named af­ter the for­mer Ari­zona sen­a­tor, is be­ing given to the peo­ple of the Is­land of Les­bos for help­ing refugees. The mayor of Les­bos didn’t care so they sent these teens. Your com­rade asks you, “Weren’t those refugees flee­ing the end­less wars that John McCain cham­pi­oned?” You don’t have an an­swer. All you have is the Bel­monts in your pocket and the dozens of tooth­brushes you lib­er­ated from the wash­room.

You leave to drink, but you can­not drink wa­ter. Wa­ter nour­ishes and you have for­feited any right to nour­ish­ment, spir­i­tual or oth­er­wise. It’s 10:30am and the al­co­hol warms your body. You can feel blood in your veins now, but soon you will feel noth­ing. Your co­host is singing along to “Es­cape” by Ru­pert Holmes. He knows all the words. This does not seem strange.

The ho­tel has sand­wiches, roast beef, good enough. You grab one, re­mov­ing any and all veg­eta­bles be­fore tak­ing a bite.

The three of you sit on a leather sofa in the lobby de­bat­ing whether or not you re­ally want to try to get an in­ter­view with Eli Lake, an eggshaped nat­sec re­porter. Sud­denly you no­tice the War Con­fer­ence is play­ing a Feist song.

You won­der how the ac­tual jour­nal­ists can bear to do this. They file sto­ries. They mod­er­ate pan­els. Their pub­li­ca­tions are spon­sors. Don’t they un­der­stand their com­plic­ity in nor­mal­iz­ing this cha­rade? Are they, like you, un­der the spell of the free sand­wiches and tooth­brushes? Are they sim­ply drunk on the sweet nec­tar of ac­cess?

Your break­ing point is a panel on the im­por­tance of let­ting women and mi­nori­ties also mur­der peo­ple. Your ex­trem­i­ties numb as a pan­elist mar­vels at ISIS and Boko Haram’s use of so­cial me­dia to in­crease gen­der di­ver­sity in their ranks. Thanks to cor­po­rate in­clu­siv­ity coaches, the lan­guage of pro­gres­sive cam­pus cir­cles is now flow­ing from the mouths of gen­er­als and no­bles as they dis­cuss how to keep Latin Amer­ica in the West’s sphere of in­flu­ence.

Dark­ness and light dance. They con­sume each other. The light does not fade, it flows into the river of your child­hood and be­comes the dark­ness once again. You for­get the calm of the air, the sound of the river, your fa­ther’s hands hold­ing yours. It is all dark­ness now.

The dark­ness you have found here is not the depravity of cack­ling vil­lains you imag­ined. These are not be­ings who are strange to you. You know them. You have al­ways known them. The dark­ness per­me­ates ev­ery­thing. This is not a fleet­ing mo­ment in hu­man his­tory, this is the un­der­net­ting. It was never a river, but an an­cient ocean. An end­less dark­ness. You float upon it and stare up­wards at the heav­ens.

The fir­ma­ment be­tween this world and an older, darker world has cracked. What floods in isn’t cru­elty or cal­lous­ness: It is pure ba­nal­ity. Noth­ing­ness. You for­get the taste of food, the sound of mu­sic. Even ten­der­ness or af­fec­tion seem like lit­tle more than fever dreams, notes writ­ten in the win­dow fog of your old life.

Cindy McCain speak­ing about Les­bos.

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