I Lived Through Collapse. America Is Already There

Living in Sri Lanka during the end of the civil war, I saw how life goes on, surrounded by death

indi.ca
GEN
Published in
5 min readSep 26, 2020

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A water tower bombed by the Tamil Tigers in the final stages of the Sri Lankan civil war in 2008. Photo: Creative Touch Imaging Ltd./NurPhoto/Getty Images

I lived through the end of a civil war — I moved back to Sri Lanka in my twenties, just as the ceasefire fell apart. Do you know what it was like for me? Quite normal. I went to work, I went out, I dated. This is what Americans don’t understand. They’re waiting to get personally punched in the face while ash falls from the sky. That’s not how it happens.

This is how it happens. Precisely what you’re feeling now. The numbing litany of bad news. The ever rising outrages. People suffering, dying, and protesting all around you, while you think about dinner. If you’re trying to carry on while people around you die, your society is not collapsing. It’s already fallen down.

I was looking through some old photos for this article and the mix is shocking to me now. Almost offensive. There’s a burnt body in front of my office. Then I’m playing Scrabble with friends. There’s bomb smoke rising in front of the mall. Then I’m at a concert. There’s a long line for gas. Then I’m at a nightclub. This is all within two weeks.

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indi.ca
GEN
Writer for

Indrajit (Indi) Samarajiva is a Sri Lankan writer. Follow me at www.indi.ca, or just email me at indi@indi.ca.