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Beyond ‘thank you’

Yesterday I wrote in Point of View that connection is an act of peacemaking, that connection subverts the forces of war. Today I listened to Sebastian Junger speak about Why Soldiers Miss War. What he says in that talk calls my conclusion into question, or at least betrays it as the wistfulness of a civilian.

That soldiers miss war puzzles most of us who want nothing to do with it. I am uncomfortable still when Mark tells me that he misses the war. I accept it. On some level I think I “get” it – he misses the excitement, the sense of competency, the pride in doing a miserable job that no one in “the world” wants to do. All of those things make a repeated theme throughout the book he and I are working on. Sebastian Junger acknowledges those things but he brings it all down to something else, something Mark speaks of as well. Soldiers miss war because they miss the comradeship, the brotherhood, the sense of loving one’s companions more than one’s self. Soldiers miss connection.

After the sense of connection in war, nothing in civilian life compares and this is a problem. Connection in war includes all those other things – adventure, skill, adrenalin – so it is a particular kind of connection they miss, one forged in extreme circumstances and seared into the brain. Junger says that if we want to stop war, we will have to come to terms with this. We have to recognize it on an emotional, spiritual, and neurological level. Until we do, “thank you for your service” is trite and calling veterans “heroes” misses the point. We will know more about how to honor veterans if we listen to them, when we let them tell us what war is like, what it is like for them. Real listening; there is no better way to honor them.

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Christopher Crockett #

    Chris Hedges touched on these issues (and more) in his book “War is a Force that Gives us Meaning”

    Here’s an hour of him talking about it back in ’08:

    Of course, Hedges was “only” a war correspondent (for the NYT), so when he says that the experience –including the adrenalin rush– is addictive, maybe he should be taken with a grain of salt.

    November 11, 2014
  2. I didn’t know about that book. Thank you, Christopher.

    I am certain the correspondents could become addicted to the experience. Michael Herr talks about it in “Dispatches.”

    November 11, 2014
    • Christopher Crockett #

      Hedges is a very interesting guy –in many ways he’s Chomsky’s heir; Chomsky certainly knows a lot more, but Hedges is, very often, positively Eloquent (try reading Chomsky sometimes and you will gain a new appreciation for Eloquence –especially when it is lacking).

      Hedges is also Passionate in his Eloquence (which Chomsky manages to hide successfully –his passion being only demonstrably recognizable by a 50 year commitment to his work as an “activist”).

      I haven’t read “War is a Force…”, but I’ve heard several of H.’s talks on it. When he speaks of “addiction” to the experience of being in a war zone he means not just the Adrenaline Rush (powerful as that certainly must be) but also the type of bonding which Junger talks about.

      H. started off as a Times correspondent in Central America during the reign of St. Ronny Raygun; then he was in Bosnia during the little Troubles there; then spent 10 years or so in the Middle East, much of it in Palestine –though he was also on the ground in George II (Duhbya)’s cakewalk in Eyerack.

      Eventually he had seen so much B.S. that he couldn’t keep his feelings out of his “objective” reporting, and he got in a dispute with the Times, which told him to stick to “pure” Journalism. He refused, and was “asked” to leave. To the benefit of all of the rest of Humanity.

      He’s written several other books and a search on his name on youTube turns up quite a few videos of him –he was, among other things, quite active in the Occupy movement, on the ground in NYC, speaking to the kids doing the Occupying, to anyone who wanted to listen. As I say, in a quite eloquent fashion.

      He writes a weekly column on
      That site is the work of Robert Sheer, who was one of the founders of Ramparts Magazine back during the Imperial Wars of the last millennium (for those who still might have some memory left), and is a site well worth taking a look at once a week, for contributions by Hedges, Juan Cole (a Middle East specialist) and, of course, Sheer himself –among others.

      November 12, 2014
      • He considered his journalism to be a calling to ministry. May we all see a Calling, of whatever kind, in the work we do.

        November 12, 2014
      • Christopher Crockett #

        A minister’s son, he trained at the Yale(? Princeton?) Theological Seminary for the ministry, but entered journalism instead.

        And his Calling is evident not just in his journalism, but in his subsequent, non-“objective” activism as well. He talks about it quite often, most recently in his “Ordained to Write” column:

        When I mentioned his “passion” I was including one of the prime motivations behind it: his Calling.

        That, and his Compassion –he apparently just could no longer stand watching the astonishing, mind-boggling, utterly disgusting amount of suffering this country’s Military-Industrial Complex was inflicting on the ordinary citizens of a truly vast number of countries across the globe.

        All in the name of “Freedom,” of course.

        So he gave up “objective” Journalism and decided to Real World it, off of the Corporate Teat. In recent years –since I’ve been following him rather closely– he has evolved into a place which some (mostly the same folks who believe in the “objective” journalism Fantasy) might consider to be “[too] strident.”

        Since I’m not particularly caught up in that particular Fantasy (I have plenty of my own), I have found this evolution in his thinking interesting –not least because it somewhat parallels my own as I look at What is Going On and ask myself (in Lenin’s happy phrase) “What is to Be Done?”

        The combination –conflation, Perfect Storm– of Calling, Compassion, Rationality and (dare I say) Downright Desperation has led him to something he now terms, in a recent column, “The Imperative of Revolt”:

        Make no mistake: this is not some ill-considered, off-the-top-of-the-head “radicalism,” but rather the next, inevitable, stage of his evolving thinking, the arrival at a place which is perhaps not all that far removed from Chomsky’s brand of “anarchy” (which is a bit different from the normal understanding of that term).

        That Perfect Storm I mentioned above includes the important element of the Eloquence I also noted previously; and all of those things, taken together, make me somewhat fearful that Hedges might soon have some sort of “accident” –or perhaps be diagnosed soon with a “very aggressive” form of cancer.

        Good thing that we have Prezziedint G.W. Obama “in power” to protect trouble makers like him from suchlike consequences.

        November 12, 2014

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