Monday, February 13, 2012

Feb 14. A Soldiers Life.

In my opinion our class is really starting to come together with this weeks reading and radio shows. We've talked in class about how to view a picture, what responsibility that photographer has/doesn't have and who has the write to view these photos of people in distress. We had multiple reading to do for tomorrow's class, all of which get at extremely different yet similar points. Now is when I think the classes thoughts are going to takes some individuals turns.
I'll start with that radio podcast because it stood out to me because you were able to listen to it, hear it coming out of other people instead of reading it yourself. It was very eye opening to say the least. the first part was a segment of a movie entitled "will they know me back home?". It was about three soldiers coming back from war and the small segment that was played was talking about whether going home would be the same. The older man said they were nervous out of the service, that honestly hit me pretty hard. I then began to think, I can't even begin to comprehend the adjustment that these men and women make to fight in a war, but then later to come back home; if they are lucky enough. How do you turn that switch on and off? That question came up at perfect timing because then the radio show started to give actual account of people that went to war and what it was like to make those traditions from normal life to war and vice-versa. The letters from husband to wife were difficult to hear, you could hear in the letter their connection drifting apart. In war the see stress as an injury and will dismiss you but as a medical case. It's rough to hear these soldiers tell their stories and say that they had suicidal thoughts. What I took from this podcast was what does a war really do to a person? It changes you inside how?
Moving on to the Phillips' book chapter ones starts off bringing up some really wonderful questions. What does the uniform of a soldier mean? Why is their first priority to change clothing? We heard the same thing in the second half of the podcast. First thing these soldiers did when getting off the plane was change into normal civilian clothes. Why? Does not being seen as a soldier change what and who they are viewed as? Does it make them feel more at home? It goes on with this very heart touched story about this man named Adam Gray. He was an energetic full of life kid who went to war that way but came back a totally different man. That's where the question arises for me if you go to war are you being tortured yourself? In this book it mentions the post-traumatic stress disorders and how they are on a steady incline. Is fighting a war an automatic torture for both sides?
In my opinion trying to answer some of these question, one can never honestly know what it feels like to experience these things. I look at a soldier and I think wow that person is risking their lives to fight for our countries freedom. One thing I never really thought of, is the only way you can realize a person is in the service is by their clothing. Maybe that's the reason they want to get rid of their clothing as soon as they can, to be able to blend in without drawing attention. I have nothing for respect for them, but I never really have had to think about what it is that they are risking. Phillips almost go as so far as to say that it's not just that individuals life that is at stake, but all the people who are close the them and love them; parents, spouses, children, friends.


  1. As I mentioned in class, and as Omar discussed in regards to hearing the wife and husband drift apart, hearing the voices (regardless of whether they are actors or not) really hits home. The voice is so personal, more than a photograph, and hearing the emotion in someone's voice (or lack their of) sent shivers up my spine. I didn't really think about this while I was doing it or until after class today, but I listened to the radio show while folding my laundry. It makes me think a little bit about what it means that I can sit and fold laundry, do my "busy" work, while I listen to these stories of soldiers that are struggling to live in what used to be places that were safe: their home. We talk about privilege, understanding, how to respond etc. and I can't help but admit that I listened to the stories and felt an emotional response to it...but continued to just fold my laundry. This class as a whole makes you think about your responsibility as a person. If we do all participate in society, then to what extent are we responsible to do something when we have a negative reaction to something that occurs within or by that society. After reading about the torture and what happened to innocent civilians in Afghanistan, I was appalled...But what is acceptable in my response? Is emotion enough? We talk about this in almost every class and I continue to go back and forth. I can’t imagine as a twenty one year old having an impact or the ability to change something, but then again how do I know if I take the easy route and not try. As I said before, we can't just respond and act on everything...we would go crazy. Sometimes we need to just continue folding laundry...But I can't help but feel slightly guilty that I have the privilege to do so. I can fold laundry and "forget about it"...Some people just simply don't have that luxury.

  2. I think Omar brings up some great points about the Phillips book. One of the first things that Adam Grey’s stepfather mentions about the day Adam came home was the clothes that he was wearing- normal clothes instead of his army uniform. As Omar said, why is this his first thought? I think as Americans, we hold soldiers in high regard and have a lot of respect for them. We would assume that they would take pride in wearing their uniform. So when Adam came back wearing normal clothes, and the first thing that the soldier during the This American Life radio show wanted to do was buy new clothes, we see that as strange. I think that for some of the soldiers (especially evident in the stories we’ve read) the trauma that they experience during war makes them lose pride in what they used to stand for. They lose pride in being a soldier and don’t want to wear their uniforms when they don’t have to. When they wear their uniform back home, it’s inevitable that someone will come up to them and say, “Thank you for serving our country.” But if they are ashamed of the things they experienced (like in the case of Adam Grey) having someone come up and say “thank you” could increase that shame.
    What struck me the most about the Phillips book and the stories that we heard was the fact that before being a soldier, these people were completely normal people, living every day lives. Phillips brings up Zimbardo’s Stanford prison experiment where normal people were placed in a prison situation, half as guards and half as prisoners. The fact that the guards brutally abused their prisoners within a week blows my mind. These were normal people put in to a position of power and they chose to abuse it so quickly. Adam Grey was a normal boy with friends and a happy life, but he was put into a situation that traumatized him to the point of suicide. One situation can completely change a person.
    Finally, I want to bring up a point that we briefly talked about at the end of class today- PTSS, and the fact that our unconscious does not know time. I think that people who have been through traumatic and painful events live with that pain for the rest of their lives. This brings to mind the Butler article that we read- when we lose someone, we lose a part of ourselves. But I also think that when we experience something, it sticks with us forever. If we experience a traumatic event, like being in combat, that experience will be forever in our minds and in our being- it is a part of who we are from that moment on. At any time, those feelings and memories can come back to haunt us. I hope we can get more into this idea on Thursday.

  3. I'd like to think of the gentleman's uniform as a lens that captures an image in a particular way, the same way the angle of a photograph can tell a similar story. This idea of having 'something' to identify a(n) individual/culture/people is very interesting. It is evident that clothing, just like setting, has the potential to change a persons' experience. In regards to the solider from the radio podcast, he was able to change his clothing/ setting over time; which in itself can be seen as a luxury (going back to Eliza's point). However, relating to today's discussion, if 'we' are to consider the ways our government is protecting us through the objectification of the enemy then do we or does anyone really have the luxury of changing their clothes or leaving their location without some kind of negative stigma attached?

  4. I’m pretty sure after this week’s reading people went though all the motions. I have a few scattered thoughts.

    1. I don’t know how to feel after the end of this book. I guess I just felt like we all sort of saw this coming but not really and after spending the past few weeks reading and listening and looking at pictures of soldiers and torture and war we became more connected to this issue. In class we talked about what made this week hit us harder, what made our emotions pop out more. Eliza said that it was the act that we could relate to the families reactions to the soldiers suffering of PTSD. We can’t imagine torture and war but we all have people we love and would hate for that to happen to. I was also thinking (but have a fast/crazy mind that doesn’t make sense out loud) that it could possibly be our nonstop reading thinking and talking about war as well. We’ve invested a lot of time in thinking about these issues from all sides. It reminds me a little about earlier when we talked about the ways that pictures can create change and the ways they don’t and maybe if we put the photos into context with what’s happening the impact would be greater. Is that kind of what we’re doing in class? If we use education to get people personally invested in these issues without necessarily thinking about themselves change can happen? I don’t know if this makes sense but I think the class was effective in getting people to thin critically about the culture of violence and war and the military by first thinking about it very broadly and by the end of this section brining it home to spark an emotional and personal connection (but also not forgetting all the historical/ intellectual dialogue surrounding the issue).

    2. I am really interest in the role that nelson plays in the story. I was so conflicted in the way I thought about him. On the one hand, I saw him and was like “we have hope!” I saw him as a person who could potentially help us change the culture of the military because he was so grounded in what he thought was necessary and right. I think in order to make the experience not so intense the military environment needs to think critically about violence, healing, guilt, masculinity, and patriotism. I guess I want these conversations to happen within the military. This could help soldiers with PTSD because it creates an environment that’s open to having conversations as well as helps reconstruct our military so that the soldiers are people, not only tools we use to protect and destroy. I was conflicted with him because I don’t know if he’s an anomaly or what?

    3. I also have a problem with the fine line with blaming and holding people responsible. They’re not the same thing and I think I feel like when I talk about these things it sounds like I’m blaming people or institutions when really I just think certain people/groups should take responsibility. A alot of times people aren’t held accountable and when these issues arise every seems to agree there’s a problem but no one finds solutions because its hard to know who should take the first step, who’s responsibility it is to create change and where that change should happen which is another reason why sometimes people feel helpless. We don’t know what we can do personally and no one from the “top” wants to be proactive with these issues, they’re reactive and even then there are problems since these soldiers aren’t getting the help they need.

  5. 4. The end of this section made me mad because of how war is sold to people. I mentioned in class but it came our ugly, how recruiters are going for young boys in high school to join the military. The tell tem they’ll get better jobs in the future, this is how they’ll become men, they’re get responsibility, they’ll get security, they’ll be real Americans. I wasn’t necessarily trying to say it’s poor people, or conservatives, or people of color only. I actually have no idea who’s in the army. What I’m saying is that recruiters go after our young boys, sell it the right way and then the young men don’t necessarily understand what the effects or demands of the job could be. They deserve the truth and if they choose to participate in the army they deserve support.

    5. Going wayyy off to what Bubbles and Olivia were talking about with the movies, it made me think back to that same movie and also in class when we talk about who these pictures and movies are for and balancing out the good and bad of it. On the one hand, they make people feel bad, it forces them to think critically about war and violence and the military and PTSD but at the same time you don’t want them to leave a movie or finish a book thinking they “understand”. So how do we educate ourselves about these issues without feeling hopeless but also not feeling like we know everything? like we know enough to do something about these issues but not enough to say we understand them?