combat writing badge C O M B A T
the Literary Expression of Battlefield Touchstones
ISSN 1542-1546 Volume 01 Number 02 Spring ©Apr 2003


Events and situations seem as though they always have to become more complicated, whether a social institution disintegrating into dysfunctional chaos, religious tenets degenerating into contradictory decadence, or mechanistic systems devolving into incapable compromises. Even if one accepts the proposition that everyone's idea of simplicity or efficiency is different, most people will still alter circumstances just for its experimental opportunity or entertainment value. The delimiting control seems to be either boredom or inertia, and not some innate standard. Consequently, most people move onto new or different things before their delicate improvements actually break it ... leaving it weakened and barely functional. So when a team member began complicating our united efforts by trifling with the affections of one of the village girls employed as a maid, it was only a small variation on the usual internecine contentions of personalities struggling to coexist.

Under the boys will be boys management policy mandated by circumstantial propinquity, there are no carpet calls until the stains become obvious and the turds are unavoidable. Peer responses to unmannerly transgressions may be sufficient, but when an obliged servitor is not only humiliated but cheated, then the tenor is redefined. Even GI's in conventional units, who enjoyed party girl solicitations, discriminated between working girls who were willing and those unsullied maidens who were honest ... and they knew that the Montagnards practiced a form of vigilantism to achieve wartime justice as a disenfranchised people. The young woman's exploited esteem provoked village sympathies, and the team member was at first mocked and then shunned. The team member's assigned interpreter resigned, and soldiers ignored his commands ... no one would work with him, and no one sat near him. His vulnerable status made him non-operational, but no one would include him in off-duty bull-sessions or card-games. Although he was homesteading his tour to avoid the real military back in the land of the big PX, his misconduct was wrecking an otherwise idyllic situation. Because it was not a military problem, but would become one if the disrespect couldn't be reversed, he realized that he had to make amends.

He approached the headman to make restitution and indemnification, but was passed to the village talker to arrange a meeting with the medicine man to propitiate the offended spirits. After several meetings, he was made aware that bribery was an inappropriate remedy for violated principles and an inadequate compensation for offended honor. The consultation with the priest would be long, involved, arduous, and expensive, as the counseling rituals would consume exorbitant resources and thus be commensurately costly. A public and formal apology was the pro-forma conclusion to the proceeding, and things began to return to normal.

The team soon noticed that the villagers were indulging in a conspicuously affluent lifestyle after the remedy, and there was pointed speculation that the shaman's treatment was both sham and scam. The formerly shunned team member was now receiving smirks and smug invitations to admire new possessions. His suspicion of having been duped by an elaborate stratagem impelled him to confront the village elders at the Long House ... and as he stalked from the compound to the village, a crowd mysteriously assembled to witness the disgraceful conclusion of his just mortification. The shaman had hyperextended his treatment to prolong the extortion, since they had no intention of forgiving the transgression, and the entire village was paid, in this extralegal income redistribution program, to be nice to this otherwise Ugly American for the interval before expulsion. When Montagnards know that they're going to collapse from excessive laughter, they simply lay-down on the ground and accept the inevitable. The proud man in his righteous anger over primitive retribution was surrounded by a multitude of reclining bodies, with every happy face streaked by tears of joy for their completed victory!

by Pan Perdu
... who is a former soldier and VA counselor; this work has been excerpted from Fragmentations, a book in progress.