Sunday, February 26, 2012

Phillips8-9, This American Life 359, Finnegan

I agree with Kate about what she says about the soldier’s story in The American Life.  Because the soldier was subjected to those types of environments during war he was unable to separate the two realities of being in war and being at home with his family.  Also I thought it was hard to envision him putting a knife to his wife’s throat.  Immediately I thought of the movie “Brothers” with Toby Macguire and Jake Gyllenhaal.  Toby played a U.S Soldier about to be deployed away from his family and Jake was his sort of reject brother.  Toby went to war, was captured, tortured, and deemed dead.  Jake developed a relationship with Toby’s wife.  When we found out that Toby wasn’t dead and was rescued from being held captive, he started to lash out at his family, including his kids, wife, and brother.  At one point in the movie he almost killed himself and his family.  I do think that the institution of war has a significant effect on the minds of our soldiers.  Being subjected to that much violence and being in stressful situations can cause anxiety and things like PTSD. 
Much like the Podcast, the Finnegan article about Travis Twiggs had some of the same concepts.  I believe the article said that he did 4 tours in Afghanistan.  For anyone I think one tour is enough but this man did four.  In the article his wife stated that he would often get flashbacks of instances he experienced in the war, which caused him to lash out, much like John in the podcast.  I also see another theme which Kate pointed out and which we spoke about last week, which is hyper-masculinity.    For these soldiers they are taught to be tough, hard, individuals and if they aren’t they are told they aren’t worthy of the job they do.  I believe this puts a lot of stress on these people causing them to do things out of their nature to prove that they are competent.  When these men come home they continue to identify with that masculine approach.  Thus making it hard for them to revert back to the lives they once had. 
I don’t think for anyone it is an easy to come home after you have served in the military for long periods of time.  I think when they come home it is awkward for them to face the reality that they once had because they have been away for so long. I couldn’t imagine being a part of a family where our family member who was subjected to the violence and politics of war couldn’t separate the two realities.  It defiantly takes a strong individual to cope with that type of suffering because it is a type of suffering.  The internal battle of separating war from your present reality is suffering.  During this course we have struggled with defining what suffering really is.  I think suffering can be both mental and physical.  For these soldiers its not just enough to go to war and subject themselves to all that it has to offer.  Don’t get me wrong I defiantly appreciate all that they do but sometimes we don’t take into consideration that in protecting us they have to deal with unimaginable things and in turn almost suffer themselves so that we can have a life.     


  1. Bubbles, I am on your wavelength. I thought of the film Brothers too. And then I thought about how strange it is to cope with a real-life event by relating it to a fictional film. Whether or not it was based on a true story, movies fall into the same trap as photographs: they can be aestheticized, staged, re-shot until perfect.

    I also thought of another adaptation of PTSD as entertainment, the play "Nobody's Home: A Modern Odyssey," featuring English Professor Jane Pinchin's son, which visited Colgate last spring semester. The play detailed a soldier's inability to acclimate back to his life after his return from Afghanistan. Plagued with flashbacks, guilt (overing shooting an innocent Afghani woman, not over torture), he is unable to complete simple tasks and his wife is unable to understand him. Although the play ends on a hopeful note, the coping process is continual. I left the play feeling like I had learning something about the unseen war soldiers are waging.

    In this regard, photographs, movies and plays have to be careful when recounting war. Because in presenting the one photographer's, or director's or actor's, or playwright or actor's, take on PTSD, they may skew the audience's perspective. That may even be their goal. They may create a false understanding of war's effects. In some regards, viewing any of these media sources, or even reading books about it, lets audience off the hook. "I saw that movie," the audience may say, or "I read that book, so I understand PTSD."

    Is seeking out these sources on the way to understanding a step in the right direction? Sure. But if, as Butler suggests, we are living these precarious lives, completely vulnerable and never able to truly able to understand each other, these articles and things can only show us the tip of the iceberg of things we can never understand.

    To be honest, I cried reading the last chapters of Phillips. My tears, however, serve only as a personal catharsis. I read something sad, I coped through crying, and now I can move on. Just throwing this out here, but I don't know if we should be able to move on. Granted, we can't all be so deeply affected by every thing that happens; it would impede our ability to interact in our glorious society. I'm drawing on Cornell West here: Maybe we do have to become maladjusted to injustice, and that is to be maladjusted to society. I don't know where that thinking will take us, but I'm hoping it takes us away from complacency and passivity.

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  3. As American citizens not involved in the ‘act’ of war, our only ‘role’ is to live rooting for American humanity, never disrupting the ‘actors’ “in theatre” (Finnegan 5). The use of language on Finnegan’s article, “The Last Tour” was very insightful in that he uses theater as a rhetoric form that allows readers to create connections, or rather an image that one would not normally associate with issues of war. To discuss the atrocities that are happening in Iraq and Afghanistan in terms of theater is very indicative of the way the writer perceives the situation at hand. For instance, the metaphor of theatre can be used to allude to someone (in this instance, the government) being in control whereas the actors, American soldiers, are subjected to following a script which includes patriotic acts of courage that may or may not be as heroic as envisioned. Those able to fulfill the role, those that go along the script’s stage directions, in this case torture and/or cruel interrogation, are the ones that suffer the guilt in the aftermath –more than likely due to the inability to remove the mask of an actor after having had the need to wear it at all times in the camp or vise versa.

    This uniformed solider or masked actor, is converted through the use of his guise and what has always been “normal” no longer matters in this staged show. Soldiers becoming other people in the provided space allows for conflict in identity in terms of who they are in relation to war and in relation to their family and friends at home. What is really saddening about all of this is the need for soldiers to return to the space/stage in order to help alleviate PTSD , even if he “wasn’t fighting, but at least he was in theater” (Finnegan 8). There is something very discomforting in knowing that “comfort” can no longer be found in the homeland, instead soldiers’ identities are dislocated and we, as Americans, lose our beloveds forever and the government seems to have no intention in helping return our loved ones healthy and as sane as they left for tours which really says something about our government and what they think of humans, doesn’t it?

  4. Bubbles I agree with you that "The internal battle of separating war from your present reality is suffering". Growing up I always thought that the way American soldiers were portrayed in movies such as "Full Metal Jacket" were exaggerated realities. In some sense they are exaggerated but as we learned from the Podcast and the readings there is a lot of truth behind this way of life. Our soldiers go under extreme amounts of stress and it only takes a couple of bad days in a row to start making irrational decisions such as contemplating suicide.

    I learned in the article about the Twiggs brothers that PTSD is such a reality. I mean don't get me wrong I knew these sorts of things happened but for some reason this weeks readings were major eye openers for me. All it took was the right (or you could say wrong) circumstances and the idea of armed grand-theft auto became a walk in the park. It blows my mind to think that these brothers could pull something off like this. I can't even begin to understand the stress they must have been under and the chemical changes their brains must undergo during this process. You see it on tv when people just go nuts but a real story like this makes you question the repercussions of war.

    The last thing I would like to bring up is that of Torin Nelson as discussed in Chapter 8 of the Phillips reading. I was very intrigued by the section where Nelson said he read the World War II book about German officer Hans Scharff (pg. 165). "By some accounts, Scharff didn't even raise his voice while questioning prisoners" (pg. 166). Maybe more interrogators should have read this book because it seemed to work pretty well. Also it was sad to see that an interrogator like Nelson was guilty by association with the acts of torture that occurred at Abu Ghraib. I have to confess that in extraordinary circumstances i hate to admit it I was pro torture. But after seeing the effectiveness of interrogations such as Scharff I may of had a change of heart. Logically if torture is ineffective it doesn't make sense to use it at all. I am still wrestling with this whole thing so don't judge me