Under fire

This expression, well visible on a wall, makes me feel uncomfortable, as I go by, because I sense that it may be warning me that I am the one who is «under fire», reason why I should be careful. Or, it may be that the author of that writing is the one who is in that situation and, thus, requesting for my help.

In either case, danger is in the air and fire is about to be shot. And it can shoot anyone. All are possible victims.

Being «under fire» is facing other people’s judgement or being the object of their comments or statements, frequently incorrect or malicious. It is becoming the victim of collective or individual will, the will of those whom we have never even met or seen before.

And this is too heavy a burden for a single individual. This is the reason why ignoring other people’s squints and scornful looks is so difficult and requires so much courage. People usually look at those who dare to have their hair painted blue, to wear bright yellow pants, to use enormous ear expanders, or to show colourful tattoos. And those looks may be of disapproval, astonishment or merely the gaze of someone who looks at something that calls his/her attention… Exactly as the Brazilian poet Drummond de Andrade put it: «in vain I try to explain myself, walls are deaf»!

It is indeed difficult to escape other people’s «judgments» and considerations because those who do not want to listen never listen! Also because we may feel that no one should be subject to the judgment of those they do not know and whose opinions they do not care about.

Therefore, being «under fire» puts additional stress on people as it requires that one is always alert, trying to ignore or meet up to the expectations of those who shoot fire, frequently in several directions, reaching different targets, and others without a definite target, case in which it is almost like a shot in the dark …


Maria Eugénia Leitão

Written for the online version of the Portuguese weekly newspaper Sol in partnership with the blog of Letrário, Translation Services