combat writing badge C O M B A T
the Literary Expression of Battlefield Touchstones
ISSN 1542-1546 Volume 05 Number 02 Spring ©Apr 2007

Peace is Not a Possession

Our introductory encounters leave us frustrated and mystified, but we are compelled to persist, obliged to endure, enjoined to go through the motions. We sort their possessions, pack their leavings, and convey their treasured souvenirs, but it's not until you come-out with only your life and the least of your basic issue that any determination of what's truly important can be decided. After a time, you can begin to recognize the people who're resigned to an inexplicable fate, who're disspiritedly inviting their destiny, who're impotent to meld the codified past with the chaotic future. You can recognize the ones who're mastered, who're undone, who've nothing left to live for, and yet you can do nothing about it. No one is surprised by their loss ... even when it takes miles and years to happen. The intimacy of death can be depersonalized, the miserable despair can be ignored, that panicked desperation can be neglected ... almost anything can be made into synthetic evidence, can be rationalized into some abstraction. In some accounting scheme, the pressure of dire hope can be counterbalanced by the weight of lost souls. Once you've emotionally detached, have protectively disengaged, it will take more than neural mapping to reconnect your vital organs, to reassemble the fragments, to recover from the traumatic schizophrenia. The compartmentalizations and separations may be the necessary mode of a survivor, but ultimate truths have been etched into the secret places of everyone confronting mortality. These indelible impressions cannot be lost, and they're only destroyed when you are. A warrior may carry a heavy heart, but he'll always travel light, because he already knows what's most important.

The counter-culture was oriented to unloading their theoretical baggage all over the metaphoric road, so society was both radically encumbered and massively converted ... into a convenient trash yard. Soldiers are oriented toward efficient movement, until the order to load more symbolic stones into their rucksacks makes them deliberately incompetent, immobile, and ineffectual. Obligation and conformity regulates both of these sample sets, but only one profits at the other's expense. While the anti-establishment simplicity-trippers have an intellectual knowledge of possessions as baggage, which dominates the owner and restricts potential latitude, it pales in comparison with a soldier's understanding. The personal property of a combatant, issued by his government, sent by loved ones, slowly acquired by a meager pay-rate, are only possessed for their function and utility ... a knife cuts aiming stakes, a flak-jacket protectS the body, a book refreshes the mind, a photo or letter restores the spirit. A combatant's rucksack will never become too full or too heavy because it only contains essentials. A soldier barely old enough to shave knows that the truism about being born and dying naked is not a cliché. His blood-stippled body is wrapped in a uniform poncho, his private possessions are sent home, and his gear is redistributed, because the mission is not finished, and the war is not yet over. Please don't tell me how much you truly care about groovy non-violence and modish tranquility, because the wreckage of your self-indulgent tantrum litters this once coherent nation. Please don't try to explain how your serene commitment to induced love and your concerned devotion to everlasting peace didn't rid the world of suffering or violence or oppression. Please don't tell me how mustard seed belief and Tinkerbell faith can transmute hot lead and cold steel into transcendental profundities. My piece is still locked and loaded, and my ruck is still packed and ready to go, whenever the despotic do-gooders arrive at my door. Real soldiers never unpack their sensibilities, nor surrender their spiritual fortress, no matter how accommodating the sentimental state nor receptive the political ambiance.

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

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C O M B A T, the Literary Expression of Battlefield Touchstones