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Chicano in Stockholm sees what war does to children

The writer James Hillman, in Our Terrible Love of War, says that peace isn't the absence of war, it's the abscence of remembering. But if we don't want war we have to remember. We have to know what war does to soldiers, to the familes, to the women, to the children.

With that in mind, here's a postcard from Pablo Martinez, poeta, university professor and activista, who's been in Stockholm doing quien-sabe-que.

, 24 July 2007
It's been wonderfully cool here the past two days. But I'm not writing to issue a weather report -- that's the job of the Weather Channel.
Today I visited the Medelhavs Museet, the Museum of Middle Eastern art and culture. Unlike the other museums I've visited, this one was quiet -- eerily quiet. I was there to see an exhibition of photographs; the show is titled Children of Baghdad in 1999.

A fairly pedestrian title, until you consider that in 1999 , Iraq was not anywhere in our collective consciousness.
Unlike the other local museums I've visited since arriving last weekend, there were no crowds waiting to get into the galleries. And that is the problem. This is the one exhibition we all should see.
The photographer, Anna Papoulias, took portraits of about 50 children, all standing in front of familiar sites in Baghdad: at the copper market, at an orphanage, at a tea house, at an amusement park, outside a mosque, on the banks of the Tigris. Some appear to be well-off, but most are obviously living on the margins. This is especially apparent in the case of the orphans Papoulias photographed.

And while all the portraits are memorable, I kept going back to one that depicts two young orphan girls. They are wearing hand-me-downs. The younger one, her feet falling out of worn out sandals, clasps the hand of the taller girl. She clasps tightly, for dear life.
I didn't read the introductory label before walking through the gallery. (Often I leave that for the end -- I am too easily influenced by the curator's interpretive language.)

I cried when I read what the photographer wrote at the end of the wall text: "I don't know how many of these children are still alive today."
Even if the gallery had been packed -- how I wish it had been -- I would have cried as I did when I went back to that image of those two little girls.
I pray that we all remain safe, and ever mindful of those who cannot be be so.
I send you my best love.

credit: image from "Children of Baghdad," by Anna Papoulis
James Hillman is a Jungian psychologist and writer


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