I grew up, like everyone else in my generation in this country, in the shadow of war. As a child, I remember my parents trying to shield me from the images of war flashing across the TV screens during the First Gulf War. As a teenager, the unforgettable events of 9/11 and the subsequent unending wars loom large. Kids, like the kids I grew up with in a small town, went off to war and not all of them came back alive. If I think through the news I’ve seen in my lifetime, most of it is dominated by war, by reports of body counts and returning bodies, reports of torture in military prisons and large scale offensives. Images of tanks and machine guns, sniper rifles and wounded bodies.
In the shadow of these wars, the world has grown more militarized. Sometimes I’ve seen this firsthand. In southern Mexico, in Oaxaca, I walked through squares full of police gripping AK-47s, all too ready to fire on unarmed civilians. I drove down deserted rural roads full of armored trucks with federal police bristling with weapons. I walked across borders with assault rifles trained at my head and witnessed the desert between the U.S. and Mexico transformed into a war zone with barbed wire and giant fences and fully militarized police.
But, the whole time I was away from home, away from the harbor, I held it in my heart. I was never naïve; I remembered the harbor as a place with little for me to do as a teenager and a place I could not wait to leave, I remembered how easy people could be with their fists, and how rough parts of town could be. I always remembered the grind of survival and the palpable sense of despair that could descend on us. But I also remembered a place where neighbors knew each other, a place of peaceful lakes and stunning forests, a place of rough neighborliness and fierce independence.