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Am I The Hero Or The Villain? –PTSD

December 3, 2012

I think most people are raised to think that they would be considered a good person.  It seems that we can justify anything to make this so.  I’ve often wondered if, even the true villains of our time, don’t believe that what they are doing, or how they are acting, is justified as “For the greater Good”

I was listening to a discussion recently and the person being interviewed was asked about the Super Wealthy and how many of them could condone the raping and pillaging that some Corporations seem to be doing?  The answer is that it was being done for the” Greater Good”.

That, to me, indicated that I was just a small little cog in the big machine.  What I was seeing or feeling had little to do with how things would work out.  We are taught as little kids that the small guy has a voice and that if you keep your head down and work hard that you can make it to the top.  Now I’m not saying that this is impossible but I think it might be more a situation where some people hit the lottery almost in spite of and these teachings are only a smoke screen that was developed to keep the masses from complaining.  The deck, as the metaphor goes, is stacked against you.  I think that those who make it, either inherit it or have taken a lot of questionable shortcuts to make it.

It is a shock to the system when you see yourself as a honest law abiding citizen, never intentionally hurting anyone and playing by the rules, to then be faced with a life altering year that shines a spotlight on who you really might be and what you are capable of doing.

That year, for me was the year I spent in Vietnam.  Looking at the “Before and After” personal imaginary snapshot of myself during these several years is very disturbing.  Going in, I saw myself as a shining star, doing all the right things.  I graduated from college, enlisted to serve my Country, successfully completed the requirements to become an Officer and then I went to defend my Country in the War of the time.  I imagined the next step was to finish my tour of duty in Vietnam, then come home and again take the steps necessary to succeed in my professional life.  My life, in my mind, was clearly laid out.

But Vietnam was a watershed time for me.  What I did and failed to do in Vietnam made me question just who I was as a person.  I no longer was a shining star who was rising in spite of his humble beginnings but a small cog in the sometimes ugly machine.

People ask me now, “What was it like in Vietnam?”.  I always say the same thing, “I’m glad that I went and saw first hand what War was really like”, however I also go on to say, “I don’t know whether or not I would feel this way if I came back physically maimed”.  I usually don’t get into the psychological damage that most Veterans experience because, if you haven’t experienced it, it  impossible to describe.

PTSD is a terrible illness because it is invisible.  It is easy to point to a missing leg or arm or other obvious injury.  Everyone can see that these are injuries that will last for the rest of your life.  With PTSD, however, the same thing could be true but everyone who is introduced to the concept stars by saying, “Get over it”.  No matter how much you think you want to support the troops, when it comes to PTSD, you don’t want the reminder of how terrible War can be.  You want the evidence to fade away so that you don’t have to deal with it.

I am neither a hero nor a villain but I know now that I have both poles in me.  These poles exist in all of us and making judgements from afar is easy and naive.  Someone once said “War is Hell” but if it were so easy to define it, it might be easier to exist in it and after it.