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Pique n' your interest

What war means to me

Usually in this column I reserve my opinions to such mundane things as learning how to snowboard, living without cable TV and dating a tyrannical BBQ-ing dictator who won’t let me cook meat.

But seeing as a war with Iraq is looking more and more likely, I’m using this week’s space to write a column of a more serious nature.

Like most of us, I woke up on Monday to a CBC radio newscaster announcing that diplomacy had failed and a war with Iraq was imminent.

It should have come as no surprise. Monday was the latest deadline in a series of deadlines, threats and ultimatums in the past few months. Naively, I guess, I’ve been holding out over that time for a peaceful resolution to this conflict (I apologize for the jargon but it’s now been ingrained deep in our collective psyche and it just rolls right off the keyboard.)

Monday morning however, was the first time a small knot formed in the pit of my stomach. It was a knot of dread and fear. And I haven’t been able to shake it since. In fact, it just seems to be getting bigger.

The thing is, all week I’ve been thinking about how another war is going to affect my little life in Whistler, about how things are going to change for me, about how I’m going to have to adapt.

One of my first thoughts was about the price of gas. How are we going to afford a gas hike, even a miniscule hike, when we can barely afford to fill the tank now? Our tank seems to be getting bigger and bigger every week. Either that, or it has a hole in it.

Now we’re going to be taking the bus to work, I thought to myself as I listened to the radio announcer – how horribly inconvenient. Although, admittedly, it’s entirely more environmental friendly.

Then I thought about how we needed to get cable TV. We live in Emerald and we can’t seem to get any channels, try as we might. We’ve been living without TV entirely for the past eight months and somehow coping. True enough, if there was a record for how much money you can spend at a video store in a week, we would win it hands down I’m sure.

My only complaint about the lack of cable is being the last one to find out about things, and as a reporter that’s very frustrating. I didn’t find out about the shuttle exploding until hours after it happened. I didn’t find out about the avalanche in Revelstoke until after the weekend.

Now, fair enough, we could log onto the Internet or pick up a newspaper but in a way, it’s nice to be unplugged over the weekend. If there were a war on though, I’d like to know what’s happening on the other side of the world as it happens. It’s called CNN syndrome. During the Desert Storm offensive, CNN viewership increased ten-fold. At times of crisis people huddle around their TVs, tuned to every broadcast to get the latest news. We love our reality TV and it doesn’t get much more real than this.

After 9-11 I watched TV constantly. It was totally addictive. If I wasn’t watching CNN or any Canadian news channel, I was tuned into Oprah as she interviewed the survivors’ families. It was compelling TV. It was also totally depressing. After a few weeks of it, I had to force myself to turn it off. It was just too sad.

And so, with a new war looming we’ve decided to break our self-imposed time-out on cable TV so we know what’s going on.

And along the same lines of my selfish train of thought on Monday, I was also thinking about how our little resort town is going to cope if war breaks out. That a war will have far-reaching effects on the economy, especially our destination tourist economy, there’s no doubt. The question is: how much is our life and economic well-being going to change here?

Will the tourists still come to visit and if they don’t how are the businesses going to survive? Will I still have a job? Will my boyfriend still have enough work? Will our friends survive an economic downturn and still be able to live here?

As I endlessly scanned the Web on Monday, looking for some answers, I also thought about our own safety, especially as America raised its terror alert to red. I couldn’t help thinking how lucky we were here, tucked away in the mountains, spending a good portion of our days playing and helping other people play.

I comforted myself with the naive thought that we’re so far removed in Whistler that a war seems almost surreal. It cannot touch us. We will not be harmed. We cannot relate. Life most likely will continue as normal.

And that perhaps is my only excuse, and it’s a poor one at best, as to why my immediate thoughts were not about the people who would be actually fighting this war or the people who would watch in unimaginable terror as the events unfold first-hand at their front doors.

People are going to die and I’m worried about getting cable TV so I know about those deaths. Soldiers will survive and will never be the same again. Soldiers will die and leave a wake of devastation behind them.

As I thought about paying more gas, there were others thinking about the safety of their children, their husbands, their wives.

As I worried about the economic well being of our resort, there were others lining up for food, medicine, electric generators, totally focused on the basest elements of simple survival.

As I worried about potential terrorist attacks here in Whistler, there were others remembering what bombs dropping all around them actually sound like, smell like and feel like.

And my original thoughts of inconvenience and slight dread, quickly turned to complete despair. It’s almost too much to bear thinking about.