I AM IN A WORLD OF SHIT |
August 02, 2010
I AM IN A WORLD OF SHIT
Name: Anthony McCloskey (Tadpole)
Posting date: 8/1/10
Returned from: Afghanistan
Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 cult-classic Full Metal Jacket was a brilliant piece of work. It nicely encapsulates the maddening experiences of the military, and war. For better or for worse, war changes a man, and there is no way to escape that reality. Anyone who witnesses the horrors and triumphs of war cannot possibly expect to walk away from the experience unchanged.
My experience in Afghanistan completely changed my own outlook on the world and life. In Afghanistan I discovered what real poverty and true desperation really is. I saw grown men cry, I sent friends home to their families in boxes. I saw the results of people who believe in absolutes, and follow the most extreme form of a religion zealously. I witnessed men do unspeakable and horrifying things to other men, and rationalize it with expressions like “war is hell” or celebrate it with “Allahu Akbar."
When I left Afghanistan I knew, with a good deal of certainty, that I was in “a world of shit”, but I also knew I was not alone, and I was not afraid, for I had grown stronger from the experience. I learned more about life, the world and myself in Afghanistan than anyone ever could in any school, from any parent, or even by reading all of the world’s philosophy. I had seen the best and worst man had to offer his fellow man, and it changed me. I left that desolate country in relative peace, with a strangely calm mind, and with no fear in my heart.
Since I have been home, things have changed. Now, three years after returning home, I am left with a continuously empty feeling of a job left unfinished. I hear stories about those who have returned, and I desperately wish to join them, though I also do not want to leave those I love. My mind is not so calm any more. I find it difficult to concentrate, I find it difficult to rationalize the mundane drudgery of day-to-day life in the relative comfort of modern America. I have discovered that I am in a world of shit, and I am full of fear.
No longer do I have the bond of brotherhood and camaraderie that was forged by shared hardship in a world where anything may kill you. No longer do I have the peace of mind knowing that no matter what happens tomorrow, I can count on the man to the left and to the right of me to do everything in their power to ensure we all make it home together. No longer am I living in a world of absolutes. Only now that I have rotated back to the real world do I realize that I am in a world of constant uncertainty and moral ambiguity. I live in a selfish, shallow world of politics and people who are only looking out for themselves, and I am afraid. I find it hard for my mind to find peace in this world.
I cannot find peace, because I cannot find others who seem to truly understand, or who share similar values. No, in this strange new world of home, people are shallow and selfish, obsessed with material things and meaningless pageantry. No one is willing to make a sacrifice for anything. Suddenly, I feel terribly, horrifyingly alone, without the peaceful, loving bond of my brothers-in-arms, and I just don’t know if I have the strength to make it. I find it hard to find the motivation or reasons to forge ahead, but I do. I keep going because that’s what we were trained to do -- to keep going, and to survive, even in the face of abject fear.
Note: Tadpole contributed many posts to The Sandbox during his deployment to Afghanistan in 2006-2007 (including The Dance, It's Not All Bad, Forgiving, and Coping With Homecoming), and he has continued to contribute to the site since. Four of his posts also appeared in Doonesbury.com's The Sandbox: Dispatches from Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.