Thursday, February 26, 2009

Neighboring Troubles

Trust in those close to us is one of the few securities shared by people around the world. Usually, the idea of a neighbor is a comforting thought, in case one ever needs help or someone to talk to. Living in such close proximity generally leads to some sort of friendship, especially in smaller towns where people are more likely to see one another on a day- to –day basis. The idea of a neighbor, or a friend, turning on the other is terrifying, especially when it’s due to religious differences. This is the case as I see it in the Bosnian war; neighbors turning against neighbors through acts of fighting and rape.
In Safe Area Gorazde, Sacco talks to numerous people who have stories of their neighbors turning against them. One man was forced to watch his wife get raped right in front of him by his neighbor, a man they thought they could trust. Others only saw their neighbors fighting against one another in a war that seemed to turn the gentlest men into complete barbarians.
The sight of a neighbor and trusted friend advancing towards you in an act of war, however, is enough to terrify any one. Sacco put into his novel stories of people who were forced to hide from their own neighbors; ones who had been so helpful in times of need, which had spent time with each other’s children and had been previous confidants. However just because war broke out over religious differences, these people were willing to drop their personal pasts all together and murder those they had once called friends.
Even if these people were not directly living next door, the idea that they were in the same city is another reason for panic. In the article, “Bosnia: Questions About Rape,” women testified against men they had once seen in town, even if they did not know them personally. For the Serbs that were attacking, the idea of being neighbors and previous acquaintances seemed to help their cause of knowing exactly where to attack, and how to spread fear in every direction. This is not to say that every Serbian person was bad; on the contrary, there were a few who did not support the war and its cause for, “ethnic cleansing”.
Being neighbors wasn’t the only scary part. Many of the men-turned-animals were once highly respected people; lawyers, doctors etc. The opposite was also true, however. During the war, highly respected people lost everything they had, from their position titles to their families and lifestyles.
The hardest part of the war that I came to terms with is why no one seemed to know what was going on. Even the Serbian leader claimed he had only heard of 18 rape cases, when the real numbers, although difficult to get an exact count, were far greater.
For me, the simple task of reading about this war and the cases that went along with it was horrifying. No one around the world seemed to care while the murdering and raping was going on in this part of the world until it was too late. Seeing how quickly amicable relationships can turn against one another from a rise in nationalistic pride shows that when it comes to religious separation, anything can happen.

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