Seven Degrees from Normal

Two people, eighteen years of marriage, seven college degrees.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Be all you can be

Chris Hedges has a powerful, heartbreaking essay at A small sample:

I have felt the attraction of violence. I know its seductiveness, excitement and the powerful addictive narcotic it can become. The young soldiers, trained well enough to be disciplined but encouraged to maintain their naive adolescent belief in invulnerability, have in wartime more power at their fingertips than they will ever have again. They catapult from being minimum wage employees at places like Burger King, facing a life of dead-end jobs with little hope of health insurance and adequate benefits, to being part of, in the words of the Marines, "the greatest fighting force on the face of the earth." The disparity between what they were and what they have become is breathtaking and intoxicating. This intoxication is only heightened in wartime when all taboos are broken. Murder goes unpunished and often rewarded. The thrill of destruction fills their days with wild adrenaline highs, strange grotesque landscapes that are hallucinogenic, all accompanied by a sense of purpose and comradeship, overpowers the alienation many left behind. They become accustomed to killing, carrying out acts of slaughter with no more forethought than they take to relieve themselves. And the abuses committed against the helpless prisoners in Abu Ghraib or Guantánamo are not aberrations but the real face of war. In wartime all human beings become objects, objects either to gratify or destroy or both. And almost no one is immune. The contagion of the crowd sees to that.

Hedges' point: we are only too willing to swallow the santized myth of war fed to us, and refuse to see the reality. But at least, at least, even with the thin gruel of patriotism being fed us on Iraq, a majority of Americans now say it was a bad idea. Too little, too late, perhaps, but when the next batch of photos breaks at the end of this month . . . who knows?


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