The Anger Management
Well it was an interesting day to say the least. It was very slow for much of the day but after a while I got to go into an anger management group. These are people who are unable to be in a traditional support group simply because they're still too angry. Most of them were veterans from Vietnam. So they were mostly in their 50's and 60's at this point. It was strange to go in there and listen to men talk a little about their emotions. They talk about it differently. They don't say I am scared" or I am anxious” they say "my chest can't stop being tight and my mind goes a million miles an hour" and I can't get over the nightmares....but I don’t want to talk about it" I had to talk a little bit about my own family and its military history. It's strange to sit there, very neutral about what the men in my family have done. I am neither proud nor ashamed. Rather I border between pity and jealousy. I feel that it's too bad that my grandfathers, uncles and cousins got wrapped up in the drug called "god and country" but at the same time, I'm jealous that they have something to believe in.
However, my dad became very disillusioned from the war. He was a
catholic priest in non combat position. Meaning he could get shot at
but can't shoot at anyone. He always cried during this one Irish song
called "the parting glass" and had one story about a red hair boy from
Boston with a sucking chest wound bleeding all over his new boots
(he'd always end it with a joke by acting more upset about his boots
than the boy), but just after I told him I was working at the vet
center. He told me how he would do the "last rites" (a catholic
thing) on a whole row of dead bodies. Many I’m sure he knew, gave
counsel to and gave confession to. It was policy to never talk about
the war, but I know today that I am anti war because of my dad, if
that tell you anything.
It's interesting to see them insist in the heroic meaning of what they
have done. They insist on how they pay for the price if our freedom
here in America. If I remember history correctly, I can't think of a
single conflict where we had no choice but to enter war. Much like
our suspicions of 9/11, news came out back in 2002 that Pearl Harbor
not only could have been prevented but was actually provoked. What is
to say history doesn't repeat itself today? Ten years ago.....40
years ago? These thoughts kept coming at me while I listened to these
men grasping desperately for a justification ...a romantic martyrdom
to fill their shattered lives. It's amazing how the human mind
desperately needs justice. Conjuring up these delusions to keep them
away from the world where poor young men who don't shave are sent off
to strange lands and not only witness hell but forced to created it.
It's hard to say who is less in control, the ones who were drafted 40
years ago or the ones today who only see the military as their only
hope for an education and a way out of our own American third world
that no one wants to acknowledge that it even exists. The only thing I
thought while I listened to their outrage and the ingratitude of
pacifists of our time.....the only thing that passed through my mind
was "who am i to pass judgment?" If god waits until the end of the
world for the final judgment ...maybe I can too. Then again, if I
were thrown into a situation where hundreds of people wished me dead,
I’d go a little crazy too. I even remember myself thinking about
joining the military thinking this was my ticket to pay for college
and grad school. I was lucky my parents saved some money for my
education but not everyone is this lucky. No one wakes up in the
morning and says "I feel like killing people today" I had to remember
that these were just men. No fangs, no claws.
I really felt sorry for some of these men. No doubt they witness more
horror than I can imagine. But what if they did something? How do
you LIVE with that? Studies have come out that males UNDER 25 especially have
a difficult time controlling impulse and make well thought out
decisions. This is commonly argued when talking about juveniles being
tried as adults as they are here in the US but what about these boys
being sent off to such disorienting places in such nightmarish
circumstances. Now you are 30....40...50....and you still have to
live with the memory that you...as a boy did something incredibly
harmful. How do you wipe away the guilt? How do you look at your
daughters and grandchildren and not remember the crimes you have done?
I am not god, but I would not be so fast to call them bad men.
Believing that the universe is more compassionate than I am, I would
wage to say that the only judge the men need to worry about is their
I thought more about how these were probably the most unsympathetic
clients I'd ever have. No one feels sorry for working class white
male vets. There is a global rumor that they have the most freedom
and are therefore the more responsible for their own actions. They
have a lot of luck in certain areas of their life. Most have food,
most have shelter and clothes and families. But if you cannot sleep
for more than 3 hrs a night for 20 years, what good does it do?
I remember when I went to Israel I confided in my teacher and friend
that my biggest fear is that I would cultivate hate for other human
beings. I always believed that one must love the one who is labeled
the monster as much as the one who is called the angel. Both are
worthy of love and understanding. I remember she told me that first
of all, I took my vows as a bodhisatva therefore to hate (as in wish
harm) would go against my vows. She also said that I should pity
these soldiers. I had to think of my own guilt over things I've done.
Do I feel bad about that girl I picked on when I was 15? Don't I
feel bad for not being nicer to my brother? I feel a little bad and
that regret won't go away. But now multiply that 100 times and now
you have an idea of what these men and women need to live with for the
rest of their lives. At the time I did not understand what she meant.
I understood in my head but until today I did not feel her message.
I remembered one Israeli soldier when entering Nablus. He was a brat.
He and his friends would only let me in after begging and
negotiating. It was only after I bored them did they let me in.
However when leaving Nablus again to see Jerusalem, Bethlehem and
Ramallah, he told me i cannot go back to Nablus. This was a little
inconvenient since all my things were still in the home I was staying
in Nablus but i snuck my way in. When I left for the last time i saw
him again. He had a strange look on his face and that was when i
really saw his youth. He looked bored, sad, in thought, maybe just
unhappy to be up so early in the morning in full combat gear and has
to now be an asshole all day. I honestly felt sad for him. I
realized that he was also caught up in the addiction called war. I
was going back home to one of the most beautiful places on the world
and he would still be stuck here.
I remember once that I used to work in the hospital the nurses hated
me. They had no patience for a 20 yr old learning her new job while
they had patients dying. Eventually they warmed up to me, which is
not easy to do. I'd like to say it is from my charming personality
but in reality ...it takes way too much energy to hate someone
forever. I honestly believe this. if you have to live with someone
who's not going away, you only make yourself miserable by hating this
person. So these nurses got bored with disliking me, made their peace
and moved on to the next new person. This being said, what makes us
so eager to wage war? What makes us ready to jump into a fight when
we should know we're only going to get bored with it later? It's not
a football game. It's a genuine fight where people are hopeless,
therefore dangerous. What is the alternative we have when we do not
have an enemy? What will happen to us when we no longer have our
Islamic terrorists and what will happen to the Islamic world when they
no longer have their Israel or America? Would national leaders then
actually have to do their job? Would that be the reason why we are
constantly being fed the myth of the "Other"? Would they finally have
to answer our silent questions like why, as rich as we are as a
nation, do our schools have one of the lowest testing scores in the
industrialized nations? Why are the poor still poor while the rich
are able to buy entire islands in the archipelago of Hawaii?
But here I am ...and really who the hell am I to sit here and have an
opinion on any of this? I've never been in war. I don't know how
policies work and whatever secret intelligence is out there. I'm some
white American chick in San Francisco, one of the richest areas
on the US. But I DO know that what i saw in my life was wrong. What
I’ve seen in my life is not going to lead humanity to a better place
which is really sad because we as human beings have the greatest
potential for so much good. If we could just find another meaning in
our lives without an enemy. If that was the foundation of our
thinking, I wonder where our world would be. What would our world be
like without enemies?
* Jennifer Knapp is an American free lance writer .
Written exclusively for The Muhammad Aladdin's Web Blog, copyrights reserved for Jennifer Knapp© 2006.