Yesterday morning, being the clever human being that I am, I was walking about by the pool when my foot rolled underneath me. I managed to take some skin off the top of my foot and both ankles, grazed all the way up my entire shin, and cut my knee. I was more annoyed at myself than anything, but at least I gave everyone else something to laugh at. Unfortunately, I am prone to infection and my wounds heal very slowly. I cleaned myself up as well as I could, but this morning there was a dull pain in my foot and a growing red mark around a still open cut. Fun. To make the situation even more fun, we accidentally left my emergency supply of antibiotics at home. This could get very interesting unless my immune system gets a grip.
Driving home tonight we discovered that we are only 1.6 miles from the nearest hospital (which we nearly missed, because it looks like a huge hotel rather than a hospital, with flower boxes and little wooden shutters outside all the windows) This newfound information made me freak out momentarily. But then we found a little restaurant, where we all tried to speak French, and managed to successfully order the food that we wanted. The waiter took a photo of us all at a big square table, and then served up what was honestly the best burger I have ever tasted. We all laughed until we cried, and it was a light hearted end to a sombre outing…
This afternoon we went to Oradour. It’s a small village not far from where we are staying that was the scene of a massacre in World War Two. SS soldiers burned every building, shot every man woman and child apart from 6-7 survivors, and it has been preserved exactly as they left it, minus the human remains. Walking through it was harrowing and haunting. It still felt like a town, but all the buildings were burned out, crumbling shells. We walked into a church where 400 women and children were shot and saw the bullet holes in the walls, the charred remains of a pram, and shrapnel damage from the grenades that were thrown into the fiery chaos. Those people weren’t involved in any resistance, they had not taken sides. They had no weapons, they didn’t try to fight. They were going about their ordinary lives at school and at their jobs. And then suddenly they weren’t.
Walking around gave me literal heart ache, which I found very appropriate, because I shouldn’t be able to see things like that without hurting. We walked the paths that for so many people were the last they ever walked. We saw the last things that they saw. It made me think a lot. And it sent my imagination into overdrive. Some of the things I saw I don’t think I will ever be able to get out of my mind.
You would think that humanity might have learned from that. I saw a woman shake her head and say that it was a terrible time, but that time isn’t over. Things like that are still going on, but a lot of them are no longer on our doorstep, so it is easier to shut ourselves away from it. I don’t get how human beings can do that to each other, or indeed to any living thing. It’s at times like this that I look at the world and just want to move to Jupiter or something.
Because we screw each other up. Just because we don’t see a lot of the scars we leave doesn’t mean that we haven’t temporarily destroyed a life. The things we say can take lives too, they can take the best part of a person and crush them. And we never realise that until it is us. We never try to repair that damage until it is too late. We try to make people come round to our way of thinking and dream of changing the world, when really the only world we can ever change is our own. We are obsessed with right and wrong, yet we blur the lines to fit our own agenda. We teach morals and then we forget them in pursuit of our own goals. And the people that get caught up in that are people like the citizens of Oradour. They are people who have nothing to do with the conflicts, either internal or external, that we are facing.
I wish that people like that could see the view from the other side. I wish they could see the effect of their actions, see an image of themselves through the eyes of someone else. We’ve come so far in the last 71 years. We’ve put people on the moon, we’ve invented tablets and smart phones and satellite television. But in some ways we’re still stuck in 1944.
I’m sorry if this post is a bit more awful than usual, or not what people really wanted to read. But unless we learn from our history it will repeat itself. I learned a lot about people today, and I feel so lucky to be me right now. Sometimes we just have to take a minute to look backwards, to think about the things that we can do to one another, and realise how dangerous people can be. I promise that tomorrow I will go back to working my way out of a rut, but for today Oradour has left a mark on me, and I just wanted to share those thoughts.
‘Ideals are peaceful, history is violent’ – Fury (2014)