Thursday, April 9, 2015

Holocaust for combat vets

I wonder what it might be like if the same outrage and horror and bone-deep sorrow that is sometimes accorded to the Holocaust were transferred and infused into the plight of combat veterans left writhing and wounded years after the fighting had 'stopped.'

Those who have, so to speak, cornered the market in Holocaust memory might claim "it's not the same," but I wonder if it's not also every bit the same -- a deliberate and well-contrived policy that rends the souls of otherwise decent men and women and is remembered too blithely by those who were not directly affected.

The speechless screaming cannot be transmitted. The past cannot be undone. And yet ... and yet ...

After World War II ended, many Jews took up the assertion and prayer, "Never again!" And yet I once heard the story of a Catholic priest who was likewise interned by the Nazis who were bent on a "final solution." When asked how he felt about the guards and government that had enslaved him, he said simply, "I might have done the same."

War wounds are excused by the liberal application of words like "hero" and "valor" -- the blithe solemnity of those like me who have not been there and been shredded. Such excuses are not generally applied to the ritualized slaughter of the Holocaust. But how is the vast dehumanization of Holocaust or war not made of similar cloth? Why should that dehumanization be accorded more tenderness and caring in one instance than another when the rending is the same ... the "better angels of our nature" left corrupted and paralyzed and begging?

Like an arrow to the heart, there are the words of a Vietnam War era mother who reflected after her amputee son returned, "I sent them a good boy. They sent me a murderer." Why should such words be written off as mere hyperbole?

Knock off the patriotic squirming and Jesuitry for a moment ... isn't the need for reflection and tenderness the same?

Rounding up the vulnerable and unwary ... shipping them off to a place of ineffable flame....

Perhaps it is only the flags that vary.

1 comment:

  1. If folks knew the causes and results, it would be a lot harder to recruit boots or to make a living in munitions and international commerce.