Friday, July 14, 2017

Moral Injury of War and the Invisible Wound of Empire

This is an incredibly powerful, vital, needed article!!! Please read and share! Thank you. Another world is possible. - Molly

 "War turns love for one's country into hatred toward those who have been made into the 'enemies,' and eventually this flare of hatred burns oneself."

"Every time we shield memories of our own aggression upon our fellow man through historical revisionism, denial and deflection, we forsake the young whom our society sacrificed in its self-righteous suicide."

With the failure of the Democratic establishment, the crisis of liberal democracy is now seized by a new rise of power. The US empire with Trump as commander-in-chief has renewed its vow toward colonial domination. With nationalism and militarism in full swing, Trump’s America aims to radically alter the future of this country. His campaign slogan "make America great again" was a kind of historical revisionism, ignoring the deep oppression and inequality that runs beneath this nation’s history. From mass murder in the Middle East and the chaos of Libya to the destruction of Syria, along with conflicts with Russia and now tension with North Korea, the appetite of warmongering American expansionism never seems to end.
A similar trend is happening with US ally, Japan. As North Korea’s repeated missile tests threaten stability in the Pacific region, there is increasing pressure toward remilitarization. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe aggressively pushes to revisethe country’s pacifist constitution established in post-WWII world that called for the complete renunciation of war. Such move appears to be a politically driven ambition to bring the nation back to the pre-war imperial Japan. The ultra right-wing engages in a reinterpretation of the past in efforts to make Japan “beautiful” again. They aim to erase the country’s wartime atrocities in neighboring countries in Asia, by replacing the conquest of the past with a narrative of heroism, through denial and minimization of the Nanking Massacre and issues of comfort women.
 History repeats itself. What is this drive that tries to reenact abuses of the past? What grips our collective psyche, making it difficult to resist this return of imperialism? A novel titled Hooper’s War (2017) that portrays WWII in Japan provides a framework through which to understand this irrational force that regresses society and averts the path toward peace. The author, Peter Van Buren, a 24-year veteran of the US State Department, lived in Japan for 10 years and spent time in Iraq embedded with a US combat unit. His cross-cultural tale of the nation that suffered the horrific tragedy of the world’s first usage of a nuclear arsenal offers rare insights.

Hidden Scars of War

British investigative journalist Robert Fisk once said, "War is a total failure of the human spirit." If Fisk, a veteran war correspondent, exposed the cruelty of modern warfare to our face, then Van Buren, the former diplomat, with his lucid writing let the destruction of our spirit unravel in slow motion.
The story is set in an alternate WWII with the American invasion, through a fictional firebombing of Kyoto that Van Buren created, based on eyewitness accounts of the August 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Sometimes, a metaphorical reality is more effective to reveal the truth of human affairs. In the intersection of historical facts and non-fiction, history is reawakened. We are able to see the wound of war that has been buried deep in the oblivion of our memory.
Clinical psychiatrist, Jonathan Shay identified this war’s invisible scar manifested in combat veterans’ prolonged suffering. Calling it “moral injury”, he defined it as "betrayal of what is right by someone who holds legitimate authority in a high stake situation." Shay describes how, when individuals are inflicted with this injury, their character begins to change, such that one’s social and moral horizon shrinks and they lose capacity to care for others.
While PTSD is fear-based and develops after the experience of a terrifying event, moral injury accompanies a pervasive sense of toxic shame, grief and intense guilt. Unlike a physical injury that is visible, a moral injury remains invisible, making the suffering of the wounded hidden.

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