Taking Life

The following was published in CONSP!RE Magazine, Issue #3 – Our Common Life;

According to a recent New York Times article, the suicides of U.S. military  personnel now outnumber actual combat fatalities. It is a profound tragedy that men and women who survive the horror and chaos of war respond by ending the lives they so passionately protected for many months in situations of combat.

To its credit, the military is addressing the crisis of suicide in their ranks with topical education and awareness. But it is working from a flawed equation: “trauma of war + suicide prevention training = lowered suicide rate.” The real problem is war itself.

War represents a failure of both reason and imagination. It is primarily an effect to be avoided, not a cause to be pursued. Men and women were never emotionally constructed to carry out the obscenity we today refer to as warfare. A multitude of scientific studies corroborate this view. A proper perspective on war’s relationship to its emotional aftermath might be more accurately stated: “No war = lowered suicide rate.”

War goes against our very nature as human beings, and we are one of only a few species in nature that conduct intra-species violence. It is not the fear of being killed, but the fear of having to kill or believing that one has killed, that leave irreparable scars. The military brass, despite their best efforts, are chasing ghosts (quite literally and quito tragically). I have served in the military and have grappled very directly with my own humanity and with being asked to dispose of the humanity of others. I believe guilt-fueled suicides will never decrease until our dependence upon violent conflict does.

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