Wednesday, February 3, 2010

An X Factor

by The Usual Suspect

The problem I have seeing eye to eye with the regular people around me is that I wonder if it's me that's all screwy, or if I just had a nice long look at a side of reality that most people are sheltered from.

I understand that a lot of my sentiments, attitudes, and behaviors aren't normal. I get that. Sometimes I just wish I would've taken pictures. I'd post pictures of the mutilated bodies we'd find in Baghdad. Remember the decapitated guy with no flesh on his arm, laying in the middle of the street for days? It wasn't a goddamn monster from under your bed that did that. That's not shit out of a movie, it was fucking REAL, rotting and stinking, and no one dared move the poor bastard because they'd be killed too.

They wanted us to see that shit. Wanted us to know what they'd gladly do to us. Those burnt bodies in Fallujah? But that wouldn't scare you, not from TV. Just make you shake your head a little.

They shot at me. They tried to blow me up. Two different IEDs had my name written all over them, and in each of these cases (and God knows how many more that I'm aware of), I just lucked out. Snipers, suicide bombers, IEDs. We buried our own guys because of these things, that aren't even a reality in the United States. Not for most people anyway.


Remember that line? Makes a lot more sense to me now. I spent a lot of time looking for "bad guys", with the intent to kill. It's what I wanted, not for the sake of murder, but because that's the FUCKING INFANTRY'S JOB!!!

Now, I'm not an Infantryman. I'm not in Iraq. Not a soldier anymore. Civilian. Free, and happy about it, don't get me wrong. Someone tailgates me, and all I want to do is block the road, get out, rip them out of their car, and beat some fear into them. That's not right.

I'm still scanning, still looking for the enemy. You all might as well be Iraqis, and I'm eyeing all of you suspiciously because my midbrain (animal brain, whatever) knows what people are capable of. Sometimes I feel like the only thing seperating us from them is that we have luxury. Fucked up shit can happen here, too. We're not immune to it. We're sheltered, and that's awesome, don't get me wrong. I don't want to convince you that the world is a terrible place and any random person next to you is going to decapitate you on the bus. That's not my aim. I'm trying to unfuck this mess, sort shit out, and go about my business.

Trust. I'm fresh out. Don't know who to trust or what to believe. Not even talking about the violence alone, either. Even here in the states, you can't do anything without getting lied, cheated, or fucked over. Work from home scams, shit like that. Things you have to deal with all the time, too. It's hard enough as it is for all the normal, non-asshole people out there raising families, earning a living, and just trying to live their lives without a whole bunch of complications that seem to have little to do them. We have tons and tons and tons of shit to worry and stress about.

Beheaded, bound, mutilated, and rotting in the sun. A message. You telling me YOU wouldn't buy a gun after that? Those dudes are sick, and we had no idea who did it, no one was gonna talk to the Yanks, are you insane? Hell, we probably shook hands with atleast one of the dudes responsible, sipped some chai, bullshitted in broken Arabic. I'm not trying to drum up a war frenzy, it's a simple fucking fact: They would have gladly done it to YOU.

But I'm the crazy one. Probably, atleast a little bit. Shouldn't be looking for those guys everywhere I go, but I do. Never stopped viewing every car as a potential threat. I'm not invincible and I'm very, very aware of it. Dunno how to turn it off. Believe me, I GET IT, it's fucking retarded. This shit gets in deeper than your logic though. It gets imprinted into instinct or something, straight to the animalistic part of your brain that doesn't ponder, it's the part of your brain that helps you survive.

That's my report.

In other news, I'm getting fucking awesome at guitar. See that? Looks like a bright side to me.


KathyB said...

Glad the guitar skill is progressing. When my niece was born in 1985, my brother had been away from combat zone for about 15 years. He watched the C-section in the OR. People would ask him how he stood it. His usual answer was that it was nothing compared to what he had seen. He thought it was kind of fascinating.

He used to hunt and fish growing up. Fished bass tournaments and hunted for several years after separating from service. Did a two year draftee gig.

He still likes to track game, but I do not think he has actually hunted a deer for several years.

We are not very close, separated by parent divorce when I was eleven and he was fifteen. He stayed with father and the three younger ones went with mother three hundred miles away.

I assumed the oldest child role in the rocky new world. As adults the "kids" have made an effort to get together as family. I don't attach easily myself.

What I see now is that he is not obviously anxious, still self-medicating with some scotch, easing off a little. Happier in his current marriage than in any of the earlier ones, although the daughter is from just previous one. Loving father, high functioning and constructive member of society. He has moved back to where he grew up almost twenty years ago. I think getting out into the woods helps him, especially when he isn't armed and/or medicated.

Not a fable or a plan, just wanted to share a piece of my brother with you.

The Usual Suspect said...

Thank you. I might give the woods a spin. ;)

NUGHT said...

As time passes I get more and more irritated by the portrayal of what’s taken place. I feel alone in my disgust. I think these wars and our soldiers have somehow manifest into a fabricated image. I think the overall consensus today of what’s transpired and who we are as soldiers is just a big dick sandwich. As soldiers we have taken our experiences and molded them into what the media and Hollywood has told us we are and then shoved it back onto the country as if it was our way of telling it. We aren’t hero’s, are you kidding me? Every time I’m called a hero I get this insatiable urge to respond with a great big “get the fuck away from me”. It angers me when the Taliban or Al Qaeda are called cowards for planting IED’s and implementing tactics to increase their survivability and success. If they’re cowards then what the hell are we. We fly planes over head so high in the air that it’s impossible for them to get shot down and drop 5000 pound bombs on them. And they’re the cowards. It’s the American propaganda machine at it’s finest.

Look, there is no war without spin. There is no war without outright lying to the populace, without trying to coerce a wary nation into supporting our savagery by way of Hollywood-style set pieces performed specifically to deflect attention from the brutality, the decapitated children, the still-dying U.S. soldiers and the burning bodies by the side of the road.

This is nothing shocking. This is nothing even remotely unusual or uncommon. The fabric of war consists not of gallant battles fought by hardy soldiers for some noble collective good yay yay go team, but of manufactured tales of valiant brotherhood and purebred heroism designed to make the vile pill slightly less bitter.

War is, of course, vicious and primitive and disgustingly violent and not the slightest bit gallant, and America has rarely been more thuggish in its short history than when we annihilated Afghanistan and Iraq these past few years, the world's greatest bloated superpower hammering down on two nearly defenseless, piss-poor nations in the name of, well, petrochemical rights and strategic political positioning. It's not a war, it's a gang beating. Uncle Sam wants you.

And, hence, we need the sugar. We desperately need the sweet, teary-eyed images of flags and salutes and stunning "rescues" to make it all go down smoothly, to suppress the collective recoil, the national gag reflex. After all, who wants to see burning babies and crying mothers and hot screaming death on prime time? Show me Old Glory waving in slo-mo! Ahh, that's better.

13 Stoploss said...

Well said Nught. But I'm wondering--when did you learn how to write? That was far and away better than anything you've written here before...

The Usual Suspect said...

I see a little existentialism is creeping into you too, NUGHT?

I get what you're saying, but what? We're supposed to just be quiet and fucked up? That might be good enough for some, but I plan on making DAMN good use of the rest of the time I have. This shit that's getting in the way? It ain't paying rent. I want that motherfucker EVICTED, you dig?

Fuck it, as far as I'm concerned, it might as well just be a rucksack on my back. More weight, make ya stronger, troop. Good fuckin' training, HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAH.

lorraine said...

All I can say is that I love you guys. There is one person out here who has been on the soil, at least Afganistan, and has seen the stone age you functioned in, that cares about what you went through. It would be nice to be personal and talk face to face but probably not possible. All of this war is set up for someone else - not us - and we will never know the whys and wherefores. I don't think the "leaders" who sent you know either. Was there anyone at the Statue of Liberty with a gunboat trying to invade New Youk that we had to defend? I think if so you wouldn't have a problem dealing with it at all. You could see blown apart people and had a warm feeling in your tummy. These wars are wars of proxie. You are the stand in for the groom at the wedding and have no real part in the play. That bride you are taking will bed down with someone else and the drunk uncle being an ass has nothing to do with you - you walk away from the whole thing with an empty feeling but he guy you were standing in for got a wife. "W" and his minions got whatever they got from this bag of shit and instead of just empty feelings you got trauma, friends that didn't make it and pictures in your mind that will take work to delete. "W" and his minions aren't looking for a job, they have the wife, they have whatever they got out of sending you to the start the enema hole of the world and kicked you to the side of the road with not so much as an acknowledgement of what it all cost. My prayer (inspite of my use of profanity) for you is that you find the right person to help you sort the shit pile and pick out what is worth anything and discard the rest. It is work and a lot of it. It is great that you are writing. Do keep reaching out for help and don't stop until you find the right situation. You are young and resilient and you will make it. With love Lorraine

Anonymous said...

You know all those guys in the funny hats?

The ones in the parades?

The ones you wonder what the F*&^K do those guys have to do with me?

The ones who show up at the airport when you come home? The Patriot Riders? Those guys....

Those are the ones who have been where you are. They know. They know what you've seen.

You're young--so were they. They have been there, done that. They want to help, and they can, if you will only let them.


Anonymous said...

You need help, man. Check out the VA--they may have group therapy available with other vets that could help you sort things out...

Pattie Matheson said...

"...I just had a nice long look at a side of reality that most people are sheltered from." <-------------THAT!

Wrote you a nice long post about this the other day but, lucky you, I lost it. Long story short, you fight to get past this. Period. It can be done and I have full confidence that you won't let this continue and take over your life. In the end you'll be fine and you'll recognize the depth of experience has changed you, sure - how could it not, but you will be OF the world as opposed to just being in it like the rest of the crowds at the mall.

You're just lucky I have lots to do today man, cause I could go on this rant again real easy ;)


Pattie Matheson said...

AND what mamaworecombatboots said!

Anonymous said...

You are so much further than you think you are just knowing that something isn't right. Keep going with it. Fix it. Make it better. You earned a better life than being fucked up and angry all the time.

Remember that even if you don't feel it there are people who absolutely 100% love you more than anything. Lean on them. They want you to.

KathyB said...

Nope, quiet and fucked up not a good alternative. I attended a funeral for an almost eighty year old WW2 vet and lifelong friend of my parents. He and I had a special fondness for one another. I knew nothing of his war time until I saw the display at the funeral home. His jacket, a description of where he served, in a bomber with responsibility for finding targets.

Some aspects of his civilian life took on another dimension. He became a very active member of his church and I believe he spent the rest of his life seeking forgiveness and peace. He was the most gentle person I ever knew. This tells me he hid it well.

And then there are my brother's five marriages and such things. Didn't speak of his war experiences at all until marriage #3.

You are reaching out. That has to be a good sign.

Pattie Matheson said...

Just read Kathy B's post and there was something about that in my "disappeared" post. What I remember of it is you DO NOT want to be like my Dad, 86 with 3 wars behind him and now feeling remorseful. He started telling me a little a year so ago but only the good stuff. I promise, you don't want to go there. I PROMISE. What's he gonna do with all that now? He's already slipping away mentally - no way he can deal with it, but when he gets that faraway stare I wonder where he is.......I hate to think he's back in one of the wars.


Anonymous said...

Nught, that was an incredibly honest, clear-headed comment.

For what it's worth, you guys, I read about some farmers in the Philippines that resisted the Japanese invasion. They had the full war experience, and after the war went back to farming. They were surprisingly functional. The explanation that was floated was that they had struggled against an invader, ultimately prevailed, and gone back to their former world.
Somehow, this helped work things out. You guys, like those that served in Vietnam, fought a proxy war. No victory, no closure, no restoring what was yours, and tough to heal from.

You were used as muscle by posturing politicians.

PTSD can get better. It takes fucking forever, and it's incremental. It's a lifetime job, and you don't have much of a choice, unless you want to slid under and I don't think you do.

You have the will to get better, and people on your side. You have the ability to examine your experience. You will get there, slowly but surely. Normal will be different than it used to be, but there will be a normal. There will be peace in your heart, because this is what you want, and there are people behind you.

We need you guys. We need what you have to say, we need your ability to grow, and adapt. We need your perspective. Please keep trying. z

membrain said...

Well here I am coming late to this party so there is really nothing I can add that hasn't been said. Most of us here have been in the 'dark place' at one time. Mine lasted for years but I made it out. You will too. I just know it for a fact. I haven't followed your escapades for five years without getting a sense of what you're capable of. Keep faith with yourself.

membrain said...

Oh and I forgot to say keep up the good work with the guitar. Music heals dude. And write more on the blog. It helped you get through Iraq and it can help you get throught this.