“This wasn’t a game or an exercise or a movie; these were real soldiers with real blood and real families waiting back home. What had I done wrong?”
(Craig M. Mullaney, The Unforgiving Minute)
When war is not felt, it cannot be avoided. If I learned anything from the survivors of Hiroshima, it is this. After the atomic bomb was dropped, the world was treated to visions of power (the mushroom cloud) and might (the devastated landscape). Pictures and video of what happened to the people – of what a living creature looks like without a face – these were confiscated because of their potentially incendiary nature. In other words, if we could see them, then we might feel them. And if we had to grapple with, and even take responsibility for, such suffering, we might lose our taste for war.
This is why the narratives from the “well-written war” are so important (New York Times, 2/7/10). If our veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are willing to speak from their nightmares and publicly wrestle their ghosts, we should be listening. These men and women risked their lives; they risked limbs, senses, “ability.” If they no longer believe in a war they would have died for, we need to know what they thought war was, and what turned out not to be true. We owe it to them to understand this. We owe it to our children to feel it.
It seems to me the answer is in the word: absurd.
“The civil affairs officer, Lt Jackson, stares
at his missing hands, which make
no sense to him, no sense at all, to wave
these absurd stumps held in the air
where just a moment before he’d blown bubbles
out the Humvee window…”
(Brian Turner, Here, Bullet)