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Notes from the Jungle
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June 16, 2009, at 8:36 pm — Blogs / / /

The Toll of War

Iraq and Afghanistan Wars:

I have to say, I hate that “we are in the middle of war-time” for a couple reasons. First of all, I’m not the biggest fan of war or of military forces. Secondly, I think ex-President Bush’s proclaimed reasons for starting the war were not well thought through and have only been exacerbated over the years by his haughty, self-serving, frat boy attitude. Thirdly, “war-time” has become this relatively removed experience for all but the growing number of people with loved ones returning severely injured or not at all.

I grew up a military brat; my dad was a Captain in the Navy Reserves when he retired almost 15 years ago. For me, he makes a good example of the angst ridden youth searching for somewhere to belong and for somehow to “prove” themselves to whomever and along comes an opportunity to join the military. To make an even more blanket statement, I think militaries, esp the US (if only because that is with what I am most familiar), feed on the insecurities of their country’s youth. That being said, I have known a number of people who have joined for any number of reasons: for that kick in the tokhes they need to jump start their life; to gain an education they couldn’t otherwise afford; to learn about really big artillery and get to fire them (short of the part where you get limbs blown off or worse, who wouldn’t want to blow some stuff up?); or any number of reasons, none of which is wrong but many of which are precisely the reasons I have chosen to avoid becoming involved myself. I also recognize that war is bound to happen because the nature of being human will inevitably engage us in some level of violent miscommunication. I would certainly like to believe that having the level of cognitive skills that we do, the extreme of going to war should not be necessary. On some level, however, war is necessary to maintain a certain balance- “good” would not be “good” if we had nothing “evil” with which to compare it.

As for ex-President Bush, WMDs always felt like a lame excuse to go rub the Middle East’s face in the fact that Little Boy Bush was trying to fill Daddy Bush’s shoes- not that he was unprovoked by any means. Attempting to stay within the boundaries of my political awareness, all I can say is that I do not envy President Obama’s current challenges but I feel certain that he will at least clean up this mess to the best of his abilities while maintaining a modicum of grace that it seems to me the Bush administration sorely lacked.

Because of the information age, “war-time” has become a combination movie, video game and novel. We watch all these reports on TV but only recently as I understand have the dead been allowed on the air (with the family’s permission); so many people are tied up in whatever the latest shoot-em-up blood and gore video game; and with the bonus of the internet, soldiers blog about day to day occurrences making that the closest we could come to “war-time” without being there but more in the form of a good read. Once upon a time, the men folk going off to war had an effect on your whole community, local and more widespread. Women joined the workforce en masse because of WWII. It seems to me that this war that has been going on for nearly a decade does not impact my everyday life the way I think it would have had I lived during nearly any other war of this magnitude.

I recently realized that a good friend had worked on an HBO special called “Alive Day.” Although I have not seen the special, the website (www.aliveday.org) gives you a clear idea of its subject matter. James Gandolfini directs interviews with 10 military personnel who were sent home from the Middle East after having incurred massive trauma ranging from lost limbs to severe brain damage. The website gives the 10 individuals a chance to summarize their experience working on the film and to share what they have been doing since. There are a handful of photos, their statements, and, at the right hand side of each page, their stats including the date they shipped out, a list of injuries, the date incurred, and at what hospital they were/are being treated. What I find most interesting is a few of them make it clear that despite what seems to be pretty serious post-traumatic stress disorder- amongst other serious injuries- they would do it all over again. Whilst I find myself hoping that I would have the courage and bravery to do what I had to do to protect myself and my loved ones under such grueling circumstances, I am forced to admit that I don’t know if I could go through what these people have gone through and maintain any kind of positive outlook on life.

“Nonviolence requires much more courage than violence.”
− Mahatma Gandhi

“Ignorance breeds fear. “Education breeds confidence.
Fear breeds hate. Confidence breeds hope.
Hate breeds violence.” Hope breeds peace.”
− anonymous

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