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Water Torture of the Soul: Watching War

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McCamy Taylor Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-03-06 06:32 PM
Original message
Water Torture of the Soul: Watching War
I grew up in the 1960's, when the success of the civil rights movement at home contrasted starkly with the ongoing failure of the Viet Nam War. Thanks to television, we at home got to participate in that one in a way that people had not done since the Civil War. It was brutally ugly. There is a girl running down a road screaming, her flesh burning from her bones. Her image is seered into my memory as if I witnessed the event rather than seeing her in a photograph. There is bald headed monk sitting as still as stone, his robes consumed by fire. There are mourners dressed in white wailing over their dead. Two presidencies failed, because of that war. Our country took a sharply different direction for six years, before Reagan and the right wing seized the reins and steered it back again.

Watching war is a kind of torture, like water torture. It slowly bruises the soul, drop by drop. Seeing the results of a single missile, we size up the situation rationally. "This means that so and so will now retaliate with such and such." Very soon, the sight of human death and suffering appears, and this precipitates strong emotions ranging from grief to anger. Most people will decide which side in the war is "right" and which is "wrong". Normal people will start thinking of ways to end the violence and stop the blood shed.

If the war continues, we become numb for a while. There is only so much grief and anger that a person can bear. We may look away, hope that the problem will solve itself. Finally, something will catch the eye, the corpse of an old woman being carried away from her home of 80 years which she refused to leave despite the bombing or the sight of an infant's lifeless body with the head dangling from the neck by a thread, and this single death will seem more tragic than all that has come before. Unbearably tragic. It is all too, too much. This is not someone else's war. This pain is located here, within my breast, behind my eyes, it makes tears well up clouding my vision, it makes it hard for me to breathe. This was a life. This life ended in terror and pain. The terror and pain are ongoing. I feel the terror in the muscles running up and down my spine, I feel the pain in my bones. I dread the next missile launch. Inside, I am screaming.

The latest issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has an article about War and Children which says that in modern warfare, 90% of the casualties are civilian and 1/2 of these are children. This is a horrifying statistic. We live in a horrifying world. Sometimes the outrages come so hard and fast, that it is difficult to keep up our outrage. We have to ration our response or go mad from frustration and anger.

At times like these, it is good that the soul has a limitless well of compassion from which to draw, otherwise, I think that I would lose my humanity and become a machine. Compassion lets me stop hating and stop being afraid. I no longer fear the next drop of water. It is just the sky crying tears for those who have suffered in this war.
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bloom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-03-06 06:43 PM
Response to Original message
1. That is an excellent post.
Edited on Thu Aug-03-06 06:47 PM by bloom
I have been avoiding the Corporate Media of late. I just about had a breakdown after the Katrina thing - watching all that.

I've seen some pictures of this bombing campaign. Enough to know what is going on. And I've heard plenty of opinions about it. And I'm already maxed out on stress.


I know some people who avoid it altogether. It's too much.


The TV does bring in all the stress of the world. And there is only so much you can do - unless you decide to be another Rachel Corrie.
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atomic-fly Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-03-06 06:49 PM
Response to Original message
2. I feel your pain and the worlds...
It is so insane. I am at a loss.
CBS Sunday morning had a bit about the DADA art movement.
*Dada was "a revolt against a world that was capable of unspeakable horrors." Reason and logic had led people into the horrors of war; the only route to salvation was to reject logic and embrace anarchy and the irrational.* I guess they kind of checked out of society to
feel human again. I'm mixed between that and anger.
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MysteryToMyself Donating Member (302 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-03-06 07:00 PM
Response to Original message
3. The world need people who care
If a person didn't care, life would be easy. Sometimes I wish I didn't care about the people who are hurt in war, but it would be a sad world if no one had empathy and no one relates to what is happening to the weaker among us.

The world has enough people who don't care. Thank God for those who do care, because they try to "fix the wrongs". The world needs you and others like you, don't ever lose your compassion. Channel it into doing what you can to "right the wrongs".
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MysteryToMyself Donating Member (302 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-03-06 07:03 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. The world needs people who care
need=needs in my world.
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bigtree Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-03-06 07:17 PM
Response to Original message
5. It hits me when I get the news of new killings
It hits me in my stomach and I sometimes weep like I'm having a breakdown. The killings in Israel today struck me that way. I think of the families and I cringe at thought that the humanity I share with the combatants and the victims as well is compelling me to emotion without reasoning. I'm afraid to express my true anger for fear of hurting someone else with my words. I truly have no room for hate. I hope that I can convince others to care along with me so I can lean on them from time to time. It's good to find friends here.
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Nikki Stone 1 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-03-06 07:20 PM
Response to Original message
6. "90% of the casualties are civilian and 1/2 of these are children"
Can't be repeated enough.
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philly_bob Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-03-06 07:55 PM
Response to Reply #6
7. Restated, reworded, repeated. Repugnant.
In modern warfare, nine out of ten casualties are civilians. And of those civilian casualties, half of them are children. This is according to the American Medical Association.
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Nikki Stone 1 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-03-06 08:44 PM
Response to Reply #7
9. Yes
Morally indefensible
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babylonsister Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-03-06 08:12 PM
Response to Original message
8. Thank you, McCamy Taylor. We must never lose our humanity, even
when it seems many of those around us have lost theirs. :hug:
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Peace Patriot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-03-06 08:54 PM
Response to Original message
10. I lived through the Vietnam war as well (in my early 20s at that time).
The news coverage was quite different. Back then, the slaughter in Vietnam was treated with the gravity that it deserved. Today it's treated as entertainment, and it is brought to you by war profiteering corporate news monopolies who have melded news and entertainment together, and who present news--particularly the horror of war--as little more than a video game. I first noticed this change in Gulf War I. I hadn't seen TV in a while (by choice), went to a big SF antiwar march (at least 30,000 were there), and then went to a friend's home that night, and watched the TV news. I was quite startled by it. They had a big glitzy logo especially for "the war." I think it said "The War in the Persian Gulf," or "The War in Iraq"--can't recall exactly--but it was like a theater marquee. Then these bobble-headed, heavily made up Barby and Ken dolls smiled and nodded their way through the war news, obviously thrilled to part of it all. The rather big march in SF got hardly a sound bite. And I don't know what's more disheartening--the theatrical presentation of war for fun and entertainment--or seeing what war is really like, as we did back in the 1960s. But I would say that the theatrics made me sick, while the war images in the '60s turned me into an activist.

This is a very, very important subject that you have brought up, McCamy Taylor. How we live our country through TV. We thought our country was "sick" back in the '60s (some 2 million people slaughtered in Southeast Asia before it was over, and for what? FOR WHAT?). But our country today is sick unto death. And I don't mean the obvious thing by that--sick unto death because our people can't feel and empathize. I think our people are fine, on the whole. Look at the PEOPLES' response to Katrina! Everybody immediately got organized to help, and showed great ingenuity and passion in doing so. I think the American peoples' ability to feel and empathize, and their desire for peace and justice, and belief in progress, are in tact. This is also confirmed overwhelmingly by opinion polls over the last two years. The American people have been astonishingly resistant to Bush junta propaganda--especially given how pervasive it is, 24/7, throughout the corporate media.

But they are "sick unto death" from a fascist coup that means them harm, and has already done them enormous harm, and here is where the corporate media HAS been effective: People are unaware of the CONSTANT MESSAGE fed into their heads that they are powerless to do anything to stop this junta. The message is direct in some ways--for instance, the news monopolies DOCTORED their exit polls, on election night 2004, to HIDE the information that Kerry had won the exit polls. They thus directly COLLUDED in re-installing Bush and in denying the American people strong evidence of election fraud. They had also black-holed the story of how this election system was set up, and what a fraud it was going in. The message: No matter how hard you work to oust a bad government, no matter how many friends, family members and co-workers you get to vote THIS time--because "this is the most important election in our history"--you can't win. You can't change things. You are powerless. The people don't matter. Or--another message--OTHER Americans must have gone nuts. OTHER Americans must have bought into this insane government in big numbers.

They are REALLY messing with our heads, in ways that many of us don't realize. And the images of death, dismemberment, torture, innocents slaughtered that are permitted into this newsstream may be INTENDED to make you weep and feel sick, but most of all, to feel POWERLESS to do anything about it. They are followed right up by the perky part of the news, or by some foaming at the mouth rightwing "discussion," or--at best--by analysis that never asks the basic questions that are on YOUR mind. They ACCEPT Bushite terms of war in the presentation. The impact is to trivialize your reactions to the images, and to trivialize war. It has no substance, no gravity. And it very often has no reality. You feel like you're in Alice in Wonderland.

You're NOT, though. It's all illusion and delusion. That "nation" they present, called the U.S., and that "president" they present are all fakery and illusion. YOU don't live there. You live in the REAL world. But you (and I'm speaking of all viewers here) are ATTACHED to that illusion of a nation, and delusion of order (that we have a president--I mean, come on--we have a PUPPET), in ways that you (we--all of us, collectively) have not made conscious. We may be attached NEGATIVELY--we hate what we're seeing/hearing--but we're nevertheless attached, and deeply so. And we are thus put through a wringer of helplessness and powerlessness. And it drains us.

When we say that "We are killing people in Iraq," this "we" has no meaning, these days. Back in the '60s, it did still have meaning. And for evidence, I would put forward what happened after massive antiwar protests began. We brought down a president! Johnson WITHDREW from the 1968 presidential election race BECAUSE of us. His Vietnam policy was a disaster. And he knew it. The people rejected it. And so he COULD NOT run for a 2nd term. THAT was real. THAT was a "nation." THAT was a president--a person in power who was accountable to the people.

Look at today. Nealy 60% of the American people opposed this "war of choice" by Bush way back before the invasion (in Feb. '03). And opposition has hardly dipped (only in the brief period of the invasion, with US troops at max risk). It's over 70% today--with EIGHTY-FOUR PERCENT opposed to any U.S. participation in a widened Mideast war. The Bush junta couldn't care less. They are operating outside any venue of accountability. And when the TV news and other news monopolies present the situation as if he WERE accountable, and subject to criticism (in their faked up debates), they are NOT TELLING US THE TRUTH. The "nation" is busted. The link between people and leaders is broken. We have no nation! We--you and me--have no president.

Realizing this is a GREAT HELP in overcoming the crippling kind of sorrow at what you think "we" are doing. If what you were looking at was just a dead baby from some other cause--say, an earthquake, or genocide in Rwanda--you would feel bad and sorrowful, but you would get over it. What is so hard to take is that it is OUR war machine that is inflicting this suffering--directly (or Israel by proxy). It's not "ours," though. We have NO INFLUENCE over what it does. None! Our democracy has been hijacked and what you see on TV is fake democracy.

This frees you to think strategically--and not to get lost in sorrow and helplessness. How to get our power back? How to get our RIGHTFUL power back to HAVE A SAY in what our government does? This is what we should be thinking of.

If your child were in mortal danger, all the way on the other side of town, and you had no car to get there, what would you be doing? You would be actively begging, borrowing or stealing a vehicle to get there. Your emotions would be secondary. Your emotions can't do that child any good, except to spur you to effective and specific, pointed, purposeful action, first to get there, and then to remove the danger.

It is all the children who are still in mortal danger from these war criminals who should be our concern, not the ones who are dead. We can mourn the murdered ones later, when we have restored our right to vote.

The feelings that you express in this OP are extremely powerful, and also a triumph! We can still feel--even when we go numb we continue to feel. We are aware of being numb, and then THAT bothers us. These feelings are more precious than gold. I am not saying, don't feel! God no! What I am saying is that part of the feeling is HELPLESSNESS, deliberately inflicted on our psyches by war profiteers and powermongers. If you were a nurse out on the battlefield, you would put sorrow off for later in your intense activity to protect and save the dying. And the way you can help the slaughtered innocents to come is to strategize and take action on effective ways to remove these criminals from power.

Don't let the sorrow cripple you. Use that energy to help save the future.
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McCamy Taylor Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-04-06 12:17 AM
Response to Reply #10
11. Uplifting message. Thank you.
Excellent point about the commercialization of war by the news media. Desert Storm and then W.'s copy cat war were accompanied by the kind of television hype the you expect with a Super Bowl. Part of it is a ratings quest by 24 hour news networks, but most of it is political propaganda straight from the Pentagon ( see the documentary "Weapons of Mass Deception"). Sometimes I feel like this is Imperial Rome and the politicos in DC are offering us prepackaged foreign wars as gladitorial battles to distract us from problems at home. The way they handled Iraq, saying "No photos of coffin draped flags" made it seem like a media consultant was in charge. And when Israel started bombing Lebanon, the administration did not get on the phone and try to stop the fighting. In the first few hours, the first thing that Cheney, Snow, W and the rest did was get on the phone with the press and try to implant the idea that the real battle was with Iran. They were more concerned with the cosmetic appearance of the war than with the suffering and death.

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tavalon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-04-06 05:29 AM
Response to Reply #10
12. Please, please, please
Post the vast majority of this message as a separate post. This is such important information that you imparted - it needs to be seen for itself. It needs the dozens of votes (hell, more than that) that it will get.

Please.
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