The green here is not the green you see in the city. There is grass green and there is grass green. This one is dark and rich and glossy and screams vitality. It has just rained and even the dust that once was on the roads has been washed off. They should excite you, these new roads that still gleam with tarmac in this far-flung corner of the FCT. But you know it, as the roads slither through formerly quiet, bushy farmland that it is only a matter of years for the city to eat this place up like a virus and replace its vitality with vulgar concrete mansions. You know, especially as corruption becomes more deregulated, more people will need to own their own slice of the cake that never finishes.
Military checkpoints are so common a fixture in this part of the
country that you do not wonder why there is a whole, mini fortress right
on the wide road with sandbag walls and two soldiers with fat
bulletproof vests facing either side of the road, fore and middle
fingers on the trigger of their rifles.
As you walk past the checkpoint alongside people who have to get down
from their motorcycles and push until they are well past the soldiers,
you stare. You know you shouldn’t. But apart from the brown and green
camouflage which you find weirdly attractive, it is the smooth, very
young face under the almost oversize helmet that catches your eye.
Looking closer you realize it is a woman.
She is not glowering like the rest. Not staring down, hard. Just
looking straight, fingers on the trigger, expressionless. In your head,
you imagine all possible faces this soldier could have when in combat,
when squeezing the trigger of her rifle to release the cylinder shaped,
conical tipped bullet into the chest or head of another human being.
You think of Benedict Keily’s 'Bluebell Meadow' set in Northern Ireland
where a Protestant boy, as a joke, gave a gift of six bullets to a
Catholic girl he loved. And how she played with them on a table,
examining them and thinking ‘it just wasn’t possible that such harmless
mute pieces of metal could be used to kill people.’
You think of the Apo killings. You imagine her barging into the
unfinished building with a few other soldiers, waking dozens of
petrified squatters. You imagine her screaming, pointing her rifle,
aiming, or not aiming at all, the squatters all scampering for safety,
also screaming, some calling for their loved ones. You imagine her
riding in whatever vehicle brought them in the wee hours of the morning
to that house-- now bullet ridden and littered with dead and dying
bodies-- having done a duty she probably didn’t understand.
Someone at a desk gave the order activating soldiers who know only to
obey and sent them out with loaded rifles and a lethal mission. Someone
who will likely never be known and whose motivation may never be
understood. Someone with death at his or her disposal emboldened by a
country where death sits easy as an integral part of our conversations
and arguments; a country where wearing a uniform is a license to kill.
The air is fresh and cool. One day you will climb one of these grass
covered hills. As you walk past, you turn and take one last look at the
soldier’s blank face. And you think, it just isn’t possible that such
harmless looking, mute human beings could be used to kill people.