Effects of War
I am a child of the 60’s – well 70’s really – but who’s counting? In 1969 I remember wearing black armbands, holding candles up and singing, “All we are saying is: Give Peace a Chance” over and over and over again. I was 14 years old and it made a lasting impression.
I was there when Jane Fonda went to North Vietnam. I was there when she apologized. I was there to read all the stories of the way vets were treated and how it affected them. I also was there, in 1973, just as the war was ending dating a Marine who could think of nothing except that he would not get to go kill commies.
The treatment of our Veterans
On Saturday I spoke with a decorated WWII veteran who spoke about the orrible mistreatment of the Vietnam vets by the public when they returned home. He couldn’t understand how they were treated.
Personally, I would have never taken part in the abuse of returning vets. My parents had a friend from their high school who was a Green Beret and was the only Green Beret to every claim Conscientious Objector status after being trained and deployed. He won.
The problems of our returning Veterans today
Today Soldiers return home to another problem. According to the report on CNN this morning Iraq Vets face being told they are a hero when they return home and feeling like they have something wrong with them.
Hero’s are not supposed to have problems. Yet, Iraq, like every war before sends soldiers home with PTSD. So now, the lesson learned from Vietnam, we honor our soldiers as heroes and leave them feeling ashamed because of the pain they carry.
We owe their shame, in a large part to the way our Military has responded to the huge and sudden influx of PTSD sufferers returning home from Iraq. But of course, they also suffer because so many of us believe the war in Iraq to have been unnecessary. Did they fight, die, lose friends, and get injured for nothing?
Heroes in an unnecessary war?
The confusing thing is: How can we have heroes returning from a war that shouldn’t have been fought?
Of course, it’s not their fault they went. They did what they thought was right. Often they were called up without ever expecting to go to war. National Guardsmen and Reserves during peacetime look at their service as a way to spend weekends playing army and to pay for their college. They never expect to have to fight. One day they are a clerk at a grocery store, the next they are a soldier. One day there are a physician, the next they are a soldier.
Returning from any war is hard, but returning from a controversial one has got to be hell. Many of their parents feel the war to have been wrong.
War is about Blame and Bad Guys
When we go to war we go because we are convinced someone is a “Bad Guy”. Our stories of WWII are about the ultimate “Bad Guy”: Hitler himself. George W. Bush made every effort (fact and fiction) to make Suddam Hussain out to be another Hitler. We had our “Bad Guy”. George was our “Rescuer”, he was going to help us retaliate against the “evildoers” and the “axis of evil”. Many of us rallied behind our “hero” against the horrid “Bad Guy”.
Of course, now we know that much of the trumped up information was just to justify George’s War. Now, most of our population view George as the “Bad Guy”.
How we see our Vets
After Vietnam we at first blamed the Vets for participating in a war we felt was unconscionable, then we realized our mistake in blaming them for doing what they were called to do, and viewed them as the Victims. Now, while we tell ourselves we are treating our vets differently as they return, and in fact we are, the result is the same. We see them as Victims of an unnecessary war.
Now, as is natural in what I call the Cycle of Egocentrism (read my book to understand this more fully), we look for another Rescuer. Since George W. Bush is the “Bad Guy” we are looking for a “Good Guy”. Naturally, that would be either Hilary Clinton or Barrack Obama… it could be McCain (though I doubt many see him this way).
I look forward to the day when we have more wisdom. I look forward to the day when people realize that staying in the world of “Good Guys”, “Bad Guys” and “Victims” keeps us trapped in a cycle from which there is no escape. I look forward to a world in which Compassion rules our choices instead of Egocentrism. Now, that really would change everything.
How are you affected by the war?
Did you support it? How do you feel about it now? Do you have family affected by the war? Comment below.