Monday, April 1, 2013

House of Cards, part one: The Return from War

Reflections of Undertakers of Rain

I assure you that I am much less rough than I once was. I suppose age tends to mellow people out, age or possibly life experience. Who knows? I am not the angry man that I once was. I wander through my days, sleepwalking if possible, and I mix with the world around me. I do not easily stir to anger anymore. Yet, occasionally, when I'm in a certain mood and I see the “support our troops” bumper sticker, it takes everything I have not to boil over. The first thing I want to do is throw a rock through their window. No, not a rock, too passive. I want to throw a fist through their window. Support our troops? What the fuck does that even mean? I'll tell you what I think it means. It means that the older than dirt, blindly patriotic, I-wish-it-were-still-1952-return-to-family-values asshole who put the sticker on does not support our troops but rather supports the government that sent our troops abroad. I know this because if someone really wanted to support our troops it's a support that comes years later, long after the war is over.

I have my own thoughts about war. We all do. These thoughts along with same sex marriage, gun control, capital punishment and abortion help keep us polarized. We are welcome to think all the thoughts we want to think and we can speak our thoughts (in theory, please see the First Amendment). My thoughts on war? War is oftentimes completely unnecessary. It is always costly both financially and physically. There are no winners. And those who do come home do not come home the same.

I left the military in 1992. I left the middle east a year before that. I came home, rejoined my friends who had spent the interceding years smoking pot and partying. I started college and I did what all the rest of everyone was doing in the 1990s. There was never a second thought to things for me. I graduated college, and I got a job.

Only in retrospect do I understand how long it took for me to really recover from the war. Keep in mind that my war was not nearly as nasty as many other wars. But, it took just about ten years for it to catch up with me.

In my late 20s, I was a suit and tie. It was a stressful job. My relationships with others both personally and professionally were superficial at best, and disastrous generally. I was unhappy and just could not figure out why. It wasn't until 9/11 and the war that began in Afghanistan the next month that I began to put things in order. I protested the second war with Iraq. My heart broke everyday the war in Iraq continued, and it breaks continually when I think of Afghanistan. What kind of world do we live in? This is a simple view on it, I know.

But this is not about war. It's about combat soldiers. It's about Undertakers of Rain. This is a novel about two combat soldiers ten years after the war. There are two main characters: John and Sam. They work high stress jobs, they drink heavily, they have disastrous relationships. This begs the question: is this novel autobiographical? No. I repeat, no. It's fiction. I write fiction. However, like all fiction, there is a certain level of autobiography in it. In the preamble, it was Chris who I missed so much. Chris and I worked a stressful suit and tie job together many years ago. Chris, like me, is also a veteran. This is about the end of the autobiographical aspects. As I explained last week, I modeled John and Sam characters on aspects of Chris and me. What I really wanted to capture was the returned to society combat soldier.

Returned from war. Add ten years. I think I captured the feeling, the confusion, the anger.

Next time: Images and the construction of story

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