In the High Peaks

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Vietnam Must Be Revisited: Matterhorn

I may be a woman, and I may be gray-haired, but that doesn't mean I'm blind. Not yet, not by a long shot. I grew up during the Vietnam era; I remember each time a friend's brother was killed. I was not so young that I was not permitted to hear the agonies these soldiers suffered when they died of burns from explosions, and their families all gathered at their kin's deathbed in a Texas military hospital. Oh, I remember, all right. Maybe I remember too much. After all, I was thirteen to fifteen years old at the time, a very impressionable age.

All my life I've studied dozens of soldier's narratives, from the U.S. Civil War to World War I to World War II to Vietnam to the Iraq War, I've read them. I know what the soldiers say. If only more Americans would read them.

If people would allow themselves to hear and read the voices of soldiers--the new novel Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes and Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut and Catch-22 by Joseph Heller and All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Marie Remarque, and the dozens of similar soldier narratives, this war madness would stop.

I drove today to take my dog to a vet appointment, another long drive to Glens Falls. And on the way I listened to an in-depth discussion of the War (yes, War) in Afghanistan on NPR. Onward now, Americans, let's battle to build a nation state in a tribal country, one speaker said.

How many young people in their late teens and very early twenties are we going to sacrifice to that? (Don't tell me they're adults and happy to serve their country. I heard that lecture in other wars when they were slaughtered.)

People's lives are destroyed in combat. Read the literature--both the fiction, the autobiographies, and the psychiatric literature. The military hospitals are full of the suffering. Just for a change, let's try building this country instead of spending billions and killing thousands to build them in distant corners of the world.

1 comment:

  1. Judith, We're on exactly the same wave length here. Why can't they learn from the past? Nobody is ever going to solve the Afghanistan problem, so they might as well get out and leave them to it. The Russians tried and failed and so did we Brits in the 19thC. We visited British and American WW1 cemeteries in France when our boys were young, a don't join the army lesson really. Absolutely heartbreaking.