Lessons learned from WHAT IT IS LIKE TO GO TO WAR

A brief reflection on the overarching theme of the autobiographical / historical account of the Vietnam war from Karl Marlantes

Photo by The New York Public Library on Unsplash

“It would have been a relief to talk about my terror.”

Marlantes does not hold back on the emotional portraits one can view in the history of warfare. In fact, he criticizes society for its willful ignorance of the long-lasting issues people face after combat. “We don’t talk about death in our society. Even the chaplains. Even when it’s all around us.” The only way killers are able to kill is because they’re enabled. Boot camp removes the societal restraints on the savage part of us that has made us the top animal in the food chain. Only civilians need the luxury of that last civility: the threat of fatality. Warriors are not afforded such grace.

“Fighting on television lasts long enough to entertain people.”

The ultimate aim of this story is to give sunlight to the hard topic of death. Marlantes needed a community of people to survive, and I am grateful to have his account to help me understand the weight of questions surrounding war. It saddens me to think of warfare as a cheap thrill given the permanent costs to life and livelihoods.

software engineer | culture nerd | reader

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