Treat Veterans With Respect, Not Pity

The theologian Jonathan Edwards didn't consider pity an expression of "true virtue." Pity addresses the perceived suffering, not the whole individual. "Men may pity others under exquisite torment," Edwards wrote, "when yet they would have been grieved if they had seen their prosperity."

Pity sidesteps complexity in favor of narratives that we're comfortable with, reducing the nuances of a person's experience to a sound bite. Thus the response of a New York partygoer who—after a friend explained that the proudest moment of his deployment to Iraq came when his soldiers were fired on and decided not to fire back—replied, "That must make the nightmares even worse."

This insistence on treating veterans as objects of pity plays out in our national dialogue as well, whether it is Bill Maher saying on his April 4 HBO show, "Anytime you send anyone to war, they come back a little crazy," or a Washington Times article about PTSD claiming that, "Roughly 2.6 million veterans who serve in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD-type symptoms." That is roughly the total number of veterans who served, which suggests that the reporter thought there might be a 100% saturation rate of PTSD among veterans.
Pity places the focus on what's wrong with veterans. But for veterans looking at the society that sent them to war, it may not feel like they're the ones with the most serious problem.

Excerpted from a Wall Street Journal article (read it here) authored by Phil Klay, a US Marine Corps vet
who served from 2005 to 2009, including a tour of duty in Iraq from January 2007 to February 2008.
He is the author of "Redeployment," a short-story collection published by the Penguin Press.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love to get comments and usually respond. So come back to see my reply. You can click here to see my comment policy.