Last weekend, I watched disheartened as people dressed up their arguments about (primarily against) #takeaknee in the bodies of dead troops, attempting to speak for them and say what they would or would not have condoned or wanted, what is the proper way to honor them. Most of us have absolutely no idea what the average veteran’s experience is like and we tend to trot them out only when it suits our purposes.
We do not acknowledge that we have been a nation at war for nearly sixteen years.
We do not call our elected officials every day to ask for better care for returning veterans.
We often don’t even check in with our veterans to see how we, as a populace, can serve those who are serving us.
Instead, we revel in the days off for Veterans and Memorial Days, we shop at sales, and we wrap our bums in flag bikinis on the Fourth of July (I think this is probably one of the biggest ways in which we disrespect the flag). Many of us are remarkably removed from and willfully ignorant of what our service members are experiencing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Last weekend made it more evidence than ever that if we intend to honor our veterans, that lack of knowledge needs to change. An eagle on your shirt and a sticker on your car doesn’t actually do anything for our troops. Concentrated action to directly benefit them does.
I’m reading People of the Whale by Linda Hogan now and came across this passage, which further underscored the idea of our actual distance from what our troops are involved in these days:
“Like all women left behind in wars, she was young but old, both at the same time. Wars amputate the minds and souls of waiting women in different ways than they do the armless, legless bodies in khaki and olive drab or the children stepping on land mines. But it is an amputation all the same. Watching the bullets, the men surviving fire, the dying children, what the women saw on television gave them some truth and from them on American wars were not on the television because people would rise up against their own government if they saw what they had done.”
This brings me to the point of this post. A while back I had an idea for the Open-Hearted Book Club. The video explains it all, but the gist is that books have been scientifically shown to enhance and improve our compassion and empathy. I had planned to start with a light-hearted book, which I intend to do next time, and then I read Phil Klay’s Redeployment. I have not been the same since. It seared my eyebrows off. So I decided to start with that one.
I couldn’t get the words right in a post and I recorded a video, but I’ve historically not been a fan of hearing my own voice, so I held off on editing it (the editing is minimal because I’m still learning and it is a Saturday and I have young kids. Same goes for this post). After last weekend, though, I realized that it’s too necessary a book to not share due to vanity.
So, without further ado, welcome to the first installment of the Open-Hearted Book Club featuring Redeployment.