The War, My Dear


Not every story I hear is a pleasant one.

During last month a neighbor—I’ll call her Tina—often came to visit me and her grandfather, who was the patriarch of my homestead. Tina is fashionable, very intelligent, and runs a cuca shop a few nights per week. She also attends church in order to help fill seats, as she puts it. Tina’s most boisterous performance occurred while I was writing a lesson plan in a small, hot room on the homestead. She began with a question to engage me, her captive audience.

“Are you a born-free?”

In a Namibian context, this means that I was born after independence in 1990. Therefore, I would have no memory of wartime or the particular hardships that one had to endure then. Outside a Namibian context I am not sure what this should mean, but luckily she clarified.

“Were you born after the war, after independence in your country?”

“After independence?”

“Yes! When your country became free, when was that?”

“More than 200 years ago,” I chuckled, “Yes, I was born after that.”

She gave me a puzzled look, and chose not to process what I had said. She proceeded to explain that this meant I therefore didn’t understand the war.

“The war! Oh, I am telling you. The war, my dear!” She smacked her hands together and whistled, as a pre-teen who had seen a fist fight at school might do in order to impress her pre-teen friends with her testimony.

For her next act, she extended a strong finger and prodded my forearm. “The ones of your color,” she said, as she dug her finger into my skin, “they came. The Boers!”

“They would take our babies, and they were throwing the babies into the air,” she made her fingers into a gun and fired. “Even the babies, my dear. I saw it with these eyes, oh yes.” She laughed. I did not.

She continued making light of infanticide, and asked me if I would kill a baby in war. She told me that she probably would because “war is war.”

At this point, I needed to change the subject somehow. Tina liked to hear her own voice. Whether she meant these things or not—and also whether or not these particular atrocities happened in Namibia (they probably did)—I wasn’t willing to participate in her self-indulgent deluge of harsh sounds. I turned it around by asking her how old she was. She was barely past 20. I stopped listening.

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