Monika’s Musings

miscellaneous tidbits on marketing, advertising, and life in general

In the ugly face of your fears

July19

At my university in Paris there were students from over 100 countries. I even met a kid coming from a place I had never heard of before (which is not all that surprising, as most of the kids from my high-school suck at geography). When we gathered at the university’s student-run bar for a coffee or a beer it was just us – with our names and personalities – stripped of national identities, politics and interests. You would often see an Israeli, an American, a Pakistani and a half-Iranian, half-Italian (let’s say) sitting at a table, enjoying a conversation about the last ever episode of Friends or how this and that class was really hard. We were in that same bar, watching live when 9/11 hit. Americans were staring at the screen in disbelief and horror, tears running down their sides, while their best friends – who often happened to be Arabs were consoling them. AUP was our little oasis in a world full of hatred and conflicts.

One of my friends, Milly, was [and still is] from Israel. For some reason a part of one of our conversations stuck permanently in my head. I had asked her what it was like to live in Israel and she was explaining that you couldn’t allow fear to prevail in your daily life. You had to just go on with it and take the necessary precautions.

Milly: For example, you don’t drive behind buses.

Me: What do you mean, you don’t drive behind buses?

Milly: You just don’t. They blow up.

I remember not being able to fully comprehend what she was telling me. As an observer I felt confused that this super sweet and caring girl had to make such heartless statements in order to preserve her own sanity and chance to live a happy life.

I am not a brave person. Not only am I not a brave person, but actually, I scare pretty easily. After 9/11 I get terrified when I am on a plane. I always keep track of how many people go to the loos and how much time they spend there. A passenger with constipation can cause me a mini heart attack, I swear. I silently comply with all the bullshit airport security in the hopes that it will aide me in living up to my life expectancy. Bottom-line: I need the illusion of safety.

Ever since I came back to Bulgaria, I have always felt safe, at least where terrorist attacks are concerned. Bulgaria is a nice little insignificant, unimportant and more or less inconsequential poor country which does not really play the game of political or economical interests of the others. Besides our nice sea and mountain resorts, we are just not interesting on the “grand scale of things”. And uninteresting means safe. Or so I thought.

Yesterday, a terrorist attack was carried out at the Burgas airport’s parking lot. A suicide bomber blew up a bus full of Israeli tourists who had just landed for an 8-day vacation. Seven are dead and over 30 are severely wounded – physically. I do not even want to begin imagining the psychological consequences, which the survivors are going to have to live with.

A terrorist attack. In my home country. Good old safe Bulgaria. People dead.

Denial is the only way I can find to fight the rising terror that I am feeling. I say the words, and I write them, but they do not sink in. I don’t know what to make of this story. I am sad, terrified, confused and angry. Mostly angry, actually. The myth of my safe heaven was blown to pieces, no pun intended.

A lot of Bulgarians are quick to blame the authorities, the Ministry of internal affairs, the secret services and so on. But this blame, I think, is the result of a lot of latent anger, which is felt towards this government. An article in the NY Times, loosely quoted says: “This was a mishap. Mishaps happen. This was not negligence.” I don’t know if these words soothe the feelings of the authorities (and their critics), but the truth is I don’t care. I fail to look at this politically, because I am too hooked up on the human angle.

7 dead and 30+ wounded. Some people’s shocking and sad news are others’ personal tragedies. These people had families and friends. Mostly, they were young, probably my age. Some of them, chances are, were just like me – whining a little bit that they need vacation and just a couple of days ago. Someone probably had a crush on one of them. For sure, they all had their plans and dreams. If not for anything grand, then at least for a nice, relaxing vacation on the beautiful Bulgarian beaches.

I keep thinking, “Why?”, “Now what?” and “What if Milly was on this bus with her kid and husband”?