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Friday, July 8, 2016

When will it end?

I’ve been trying to read This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust but it’s tough. She puts the people front and center, and the text is grippingly realistic as she uses quotes from those soldiers who were there … and died or who never “came back”. I’m reading it because I want to understand the lingering effects all that suffering and blood in the soil has had upon our nation — and pour those emotions and patterns into a manuscript I’m working on. 
So while I’ve been reading, there has been (in the TV series Parenthood) a story-thread about a young soldier coming home from several tours in Afghanistan that has broken my heart. War is war, and as the character in the series tries to find a way to live in the “real world” again, I can’t help but reflect upon the Civil War soldiers who wrote to their loved ones of their pain and suffering, of everyone dying around them, of being far from home and being required to kill other people.
I had gruesome nightmares a few nights ago, I couldn’t seem to get away from them; no matter how often I woke up, they returned as soon as I fell asleep. I can hardly imagine the nightmares endured by soldiers when they are awake and asleep.
In the Civil War, soldiers tried many ways to manage the horrors they experienced, from focusing upon their own dying to religious succor to blocking all emotions and becoming killing machines. Faust says that, “As the intensity of this war and the size of its death tolls mounted in the months and years that followed, vengeance came to play an ever more important role, joining principles of duty and self-defense in legitimating violence.” When will this madness end? When will all humans realize the toll enough to stop the killing, the violence, the warfare? How can we release our fear and need for vengeance? One author said that war is a result of impatience, a result of wanting our own way so badly that we are willing to kill to get it.
I believe one way toward stopping the violence is to hold ourselves to the grief instead of the celebration, to the suffering and loss instead of the “victory.” Not all the time, not to the exclusion of the other joys in life, of course not. But when we think of “war” maybe keeping the losses everyone experiences at the forefront of our thoughts, maybe reflecting upon the suffering instead of becoming impatient with the “other” would be more prohibitive. I lament the sacrifices made by soldiers and their loved ones, even while I honor them — but we have to stop killing.

“Battle was, as a North Carolina soldier ruefully put it, ‘majestic murder.’ The carnage was not a natural disaster but a man-made one, the product of human choice and agency.”

Here is another view on "The Other Side of War" -- the writer's poem is so profound in its simplicity.

1 comment:

  1. I've done a good bit of reading as I work on my novel set during the Civil War. Its heartbreaking and the most heartbreaking thing to me is that we never seem to learn from the past.


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