In first world countries we feel as if we are born into the light and live there safely. We feel as if we have to be careful of the darkness but just being watchful should be enough. Everyone who lives outside the first world knows that the world is made for the darkness and only by our volition and through a huge and constant effort can we move toward the light.
This book, about the Consequences of War is a study, or an exploration of the effect of bad people and bad behavior on us all. Governments choose to wage war, often and dangerously. Those governments have an acceptable number of their own citizens that they will sacrifice in the waging of war. The decision to wage war rather than some other conflict resolution method is the decision that it’s okay to kill people in other countries and take their land and wealth. It’s also okay if some of your own people are killed so that the ones who decide can have that wealth or land. Amazingly vague and illogical reasons are given for the war and for the participation and ultimate loss of citizens that will result from it.
A huge amount of the resources, including materials, wealth, time, effort and even human lives are devoted to the ability to wage war, and the actual wars. Surprisingly, even knowing that the violence of war is going to result in damage, physical injury and psychological and spiritual injury will occur, there is very little time, materiel, wealth, resources and human lives dedicated to repairing or even addressing that damage.
Induction into the war machine, often of citizens who were drawn in unwillingly (through a draft for example) is brutal and contains no consideration of the humanity of those conscribed . The justification is that the war machine is intended to be brutal to do brutal things to the other countries considered enemies. The people who are pulled into service are given physical and psychological tasks to shape them into fighters capable of being brutal. Brutal is defined as extremely cruel or harsh, typical of beasts. Not of humans but beasts. The fighters, or combatants who make up the war machine have to give up their humanity and become capable of behaving like beasts.
Each task or step in shifting citizens from civil to brutal is a test of willingness of the people involved. Each time the combatant has to decide if they will give up some more of their humanity. Among the tools the owner of the war machine (i.e. the government) use include a view of failure to become brutal as weak and disgusting. To enforce the difficult decisions each combatant has to make an effort is made to create a belief that it is patriotic, brave, heroic to give up the humanity and become brutal practitioners of war. The more brutal the more heroic. Patriotism is understood to be showing a great love and support for your country. Any other behavior is viewed as not only weak but hateful of your country. Any combatant that is successful in serving the war machine is therefore, very little human on their return.
Once the combatant returns to society it is fully expected from day one that they will be fully human again and able to behave in a civil manner. The combatant often feels so unable to anticipate how they should react to any situation, that they withdraw emotionally, and sometimes physically from society. This makes people around them uncomfortable which reinforces their withdrawal. One of the central feelings that keeps the returned combatant from asking for help or even explaining what they are feeling and why, is shame. This is a feeling of guilt, regret or embarrassment, that expresses a feeling of disgrace or dishonor. In a society like ours here in the U.S. where no one talks to veterans, no one wants to understand what they experienced or felt in the war, the problem is huge.
So a veteran comes home, goes to work, tries to have a relationship in which they can’t share what they are feeling, live unknown in their own homes, and tries to cover the fact that they really don’t know how to react to any challenging situation. The result is sadness, loneliness and frustration. It makes the returning combatant a poor partner, a poor friend, and even a poor companion. Their frustration often builds and expresses itself in ways that harken back to the skills they learned in the war. The veteran feels under attack by being ignored or judged by people who know nothing about them.
The veteran, in order even to survive, has to learn complex and dangerous skills in the service of the war machine. A quick violent response is the most effective way to avoid and survive what is viewed as hostility from those around the veteran. Some veterans become frustrated enough to resort to what they learned to do best and become violent. Once that path is chosen is descends rapidly into choices that can’t be escaped.
This book deals with two veterans. On their return after 6 years of frequent combat, they both know that they’re scary and hard to be around. One gets married, starts a family, and opens a business. His fellow combatant can’t make the transition back to home. Elijah can’t make it home and moves into a safe house that he and Juno build in the back of Juno’s import/export business warehouse. Elijah works a few days a week with the Longshoremen’s Union, through a friend of Juno. He keeps himself fit and battle ready. He finds opportunities to use his skills as a soldier in his new hometown and that is the problem. We find Elijah at home and experiencing one of this bad dreams early one morning. He goes to have breakfast even before sunrise because he knows he can’t sleep any more. He discovers three men beating up a young slender man near his favorite breakfast place. He is incensed and enters the battle. He seriously injures one of the three bullies. He kills the second and chases off the third He takes the injured man to his breakfast place, Buster’s Cafe, so the injured man won’t have to confront the police and become a martyr for the gay movement.
This is a simple act of bravery that opens a door that can’t be closed again for Elijah.