Marines spooning on a cold stone floor


War feeds upon the souls of the young. This feeding is inevitable. I’m not only talking about the destruction of souls as evidenced by the exiting of the body, physical death, though that is tragic enough. I’m talking about the feeding that affects all of the young, combatants or not, when violence is institutionalized. As a result of this cultural inbededness, children witness, enact, and normalize conflict in very deep ways. So I speak of war, as it happens now all over the planet, and for us, as Americans, most specifically in Iraq and Afghanistan. I lament that it will, as a matter of course, feed on the soul of my 2 year old daughter. She will grow older, and have to make momentary as well as longitudinal decisions concerning if, how, and why she will support violence done in other countries in the name of peace, protection, whatever. She will, as will all young people, make this decision by her actions, conscious or not.

If war, the planetary process of killing, damaging, economically crippling and philosophically annihilating those with whom we don’t agree, feeds upon the souls of the young, does it not do the same with the rest of us? It does, and although I’m concerned about that, I’m more concerned with its effects upon those who are growing, filling up their moral compasses with the mercury, the gravitas of intentionality. How do we expect them to understand how to proceed in a culture that positively reeks of violence? Physical violence. Financial tyranny. Violence enacted in the simulacrum of television, movies, the iPod whispering  carnage in the ear, 24/7. No push back. No hippies in the street, no flowers placed in the barrels of guns. Just the duality of the cacophony of aggression in torrid intercourse with the whispering succubus of total acquiescence. There is no guide by the river to point the way past the deep water. It is of course an exaggeration and literary exercise to assert that there is absolutely no cultural opposition to the idea of war, of aggression, of violence. There are ghettos and silos of opposition. But in comparison to the fortresses of the  agitators and the complicit, which captures the actions of most of us, they are miniscule.

I just saw The Hurt Locker, and came away deeply affected,  and with mixed emotions. I was not awed by the story, and did not feel it deserved an Oscar for best picture. I felt An Education was a better film. What affected me so deeply was the depiction( accurately I am told by people I trust who have had these experiences), of the profound depths of the empty violence.Violence done by the young, for the most part, to the young, in many instances, on behalf of the powerful, and in the name of all of us. This cycle has continued uninterrupted since the beginning of human engagement. The difference is that violence is now more detached; no watching your enemy’s life blood flow over the end of your sword, and this detachment is a stimulus to continue the violence. We send Marines, hard of limb, with full men’s bodies, but possessive of the memories of boys, to fight on behalf of puppet masters who embody  agitation, avarice and preoccupation. We send these men with  boy memories to places where memories cease, and are replaced by the violent reactivity and constant bloody red tape spinning on the wheel of PTSD. We take these boy memories, shred them, suck out the innocence like marrow from a bone, and leave shells of  souls  behind, less animate, less full of the light of….a past.

I heard an NPR story about Marines in Kandahar on the eve of battle. The NPR reporter imbedded with these Marines  described them huddled in a bombed out gas station with roof torn away to reveal a frozen star-filled sky, spooning each other in the misery of the freezing cold. The core of their existence was really just each other; memory, place, moral value all distilled into a moment of receiving bodily warmth and shared preservation from a comrade. We take, as a culture, these moments, infuse them with sufficient romantic engine, and sell them back to young men  in order to convince them to continue to fight. Convince them that sacrificing their lives, minds and souls must be done, for each other. And the truth of it rings, in these star-filled nights, mightily in the ears of boys (still having the memories of boys) in the Hollers of Kentucky, the Ghettoes of Detroit, and on the plains of Kansas. And they fall in, fall down and fall apart, all for the ridiculous spoils of a game. A game of life with the most severe consequences. How do we stand up, if even just to preserve the boy and girl memories of the men and women who would fight our games for us? I don’t know, but my daughter’s clear eyes and bright innocent soul beg me to find out….quickly.


3 thoughts on “Marines spooning on a cold stone floor

  1. neo says:

    Your first line is brilliant. Almost as good ad the first line in “Tale of Two Cities”. (It was the best of times it was the worst of time).

    War feeds on the souls of the young.

    However, there is something I dont like about that line. How are we going to stop that? You must show us the soluton once you so brillantly describe the problem.

  2. LVB says:

    Very nice work, Percy. I could visualize your daughter’s beautiful, innocent eyes when I read that last line.

    Only one distinction that I would make here, and I feel is a very important one.

    When you say:

    “If war, the planetary process of killing, damaging, economically crippling and philosophically annihilating those with whom we don’t agree, feeds upon the souls of the young,,,”

    While I certainly agree, and who wouldn’t, that war feeds upon the souls of the young, and all of us for that matter, I think it is clearly a false premise to say that war is simply killing those with whom we disagree. It certainly has been exactly that, at times. It has also clearly been a necessary response to enemies that attacked our nation and slaughtered thousands of our innocent people without provocation. Notably, Pearl Harbor and 9/11, unless one believes that Bush/Cheney/CIA, et al did the latter…but that would be a whole different essay, wouldn’t it?. Please forgive the levity, but it helps sometimes, when dealing with such deadly serious issues.

    Tom Hanks, making the rounds promoting his new HBO hit, “The Pacific”, has been saying very simiilar things as this. Basically, that we went to war against the Japanese Empire because they were “different” from us. No mention of the massive surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. I’m sorry, Mr. Hanks, but that is utter nonsense. It is extremely biased and quite intellectually, as well as historically, dishonest. It also fails to recognize that in Europe, Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler’s brutality and conquest of Czechoslovakia, was arguably the biggest reason (other than Hitler’s insanity) that the limited military aggression escalated and became one of the biggest nightmares the world has ever known. There are evil people out there, and we all know that. When these types of people see obvious weakness, or even perceive possible weakness, it often emboldens and encourages them like mad dogs smellling the fear. Historicallly, this is repetitive and undeniable. How do we stop that aspect? We can’t, I’m afraid. But what we can do is avoid future military conflicts that don’t involve nation states and/or smaller groups of lunatics attacking and murdering our innocent civilians or military personnel within the borders of our own nation. Wow, huge paragraph there…oh well, isn’t that what blogs are for?

    I also agree with you that “Hurt Locker” was nowhere near best picture Oscar material. It was entertaining, with some great acting, but not that great overall, by any means. I am blessed to know and have worked with some real life EOD techs, who do both state police work where I live as well as Army Reserve duty in Iraq/Afghanistan. These are wonderful, caring people, and they do their jobs cautiously, like engineers and scientists, not like wild cowboys. It’s possible the writer may have witnessed such rogue behavior that he chose to make the primary focus of the film. But these guys who do it in real life, say it is typical Holllywood BS…or shall I say more kindly, artistic license / truth modification. Having seen them work a little bit here locally, I can personally vouch for their methods and demeanor. Complete professionals, who give a damn and save a lot of lives…including their own, all the time. They like to go home at night and look into the clear, beautiful eyes of their children, too.

    That’s all for now.

    I hope all is well with you and the GP recording sessions are kicking ass! I can’t wait to hear more of your excellent work.

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