Sarajevo, 1984. The world came together, crowded around their televisions donning the colors of their nation to partake in some healthy competition. Wikipedia tells me that Africa sent their first black skier, Yugoslavia won its first winter Olympic medal, and America took home its first medal in downhill. All eyes when on Sarajevo for two weeks. All eyes watching intently as their country(wo)men fought to take home the gold. All eyes watching as hopes and dreams became realized. All eyes watching as the world came together; united as a people in support of a centuries-old tradition we all seem to agree on.
Sarajevo, 1992-1995. The world was no longer crowded around the television eager to see what was happening. The colors of nations had become divisive. I do not need Wikipedia to tell me the facts, because I am beginning to learn the stories. All eyes turned away as tanks took over the hills that once hosted the winter specular of ’84. Eyes closed as men with guns surrounded the city, killing indiscriminately. This time, a centuries old tradition – a tradition of abandoning our humanity, of forgetting how to come together, of letting war wage with no one watching – took hold.
Sarajevo, 2016. I’ve once again found myself in a beautiful land that has been torn apart by conflict; yet another place in our world where country(wo)men became enemies and people were killed simply because they were born on the wrong side. A place where ethnic cleansing, mass murder, genocide, has again found its way into the human story. I am reminded of how quickly symbols of unity can become places of hate—where a bobsled run becomes a tool of war. I am reminded of the incredible breath of the human experience. The pain and the suffering, lives lost, stories forever changed. I am reminded of how many times this happens the world over and how its happening as I type this. I am saddened. I feel beaten down. I feel betrayed by “never again.” I end my day with ice cream, exchange a laugh over my broken and horribly accented Bosnian “thank you” and I am reminded that there is always light in the darkness. There is always a way to come back together, to remember that though the ice cream and laughter never take away the pain, our humanity is a shared experience. We can’t just watch while we wear our nation’s colors and share our joys, because unfortunately, we seem to find ourselves too often caught in a centuries-old tradition – a tradition of abandoning our humanity, of forgetting how to come together, of letting war wage with no one watching.