Ain’t No Love in WarPublished 9:39am Friday, April 13, 2012
After being exposed to life threatening situations for any extended period, individuals become more reserved and cautious. After seeing the bodies of slain fellow soldiers, individuals eventually have to learn to control emotion in order to remain focused enough to insure their own survival. Powered by the stresses of an insecure environment, then triggered by the loss or wounding of a member or members of his “team,” a soldier’s emotions may easily be channeled into bloodlust and revenge. I believe that the base emotions in these situations are fear (confronting one’s own mortality) and rage (a response to fear that feels strong in the face of the weakness experienced with fear).
What has happened? The ability to experience and express compassion – the primary emotional behavior of peaceful co-existence – has been compromised; smothered but not killed. Not all soldiers enduring these privations and the indignities of combat will act out – all will be affected. With the huge numbers of veterans living in the U.S., I can’t help wondering if the eroding of the gentle aspect of the world I grew up in is being affected by the more or less continuous state of war that the country has had foisted upon it by politicians. Certainly since the end of World War II the culture has seen a rise in rudeness, public aggression in word and deed, insensitivity toward those in need and self interest at the expense of human interest.
What does war change? The answer is compassion – both in individuals and in the collective culture as more of the population is affected. As returning vets raise their offspring, the diminishing of their capacity for compassion is passed along to succeeding generations. We are seeing the erosion of compassion in our lives today. Somehow we must find a way to reverse this trend if we are to survive as a nation fit to have a leadership role in the world.