Dehumanizing the Enemy-PTSD Beginnings

September 5, 2011

How do you get someone who is raised with normal American values to face the rigors of war?  One of the first things we do is to dehumanize the enemy.  It was the Krauts and Japs in World War II, the Gooks in Vietnam and now the Hadjis or ragheads in the Middle East.  We consider ourselves as the saving Gods from the City on the Hill, the America of “Exceptionalism”.  The American that can do no wrong, that never needs to be apologized. I’m sorry but I simply can not allow myself to think this way. As they say, “Nobody is perfect”. We all make mistakes and I believe that we need to own up to these mistakes and apologize for them when we do.

When we talk about the number of casualties of War we only state the US casualties and rarely the toll suffered from the enemy.  If we can depersonalize the war these casualties become “collateral damage”.  Americans can do whatever we want but if the enemy tries to fight back they are labeled the ” terrorists”.

I remember being in Vietnam and doing things that I would never dream of doing in the United States.  Later to find that that entire war was based and funded on a lie was the coup d’ gras.  Those who remained in the United States and protested the Vietnam War were considered Hippie Freaks or Un-American.   I wondered how they could protest while we were in Vietnam risking our lives fighting for America?  Then when I returned I realized that life in the United States simply went on and my experiences meant nothing to the people back home. The latest Pew Poll found that 85% of servicemen and women feel people in the US have no idea what they have gone through while fighting a war.

Later in my life, my wife and I took in an exchange student who was from Japan.  One day while we were all sitting at the dinner table talking and exchanging ideas it occurred to me that this 20 year old boy sitting across from me and I would have been trying to kill each other if we had been born 30 years earlier.

War is ugly.  I think those who really feel some guilt over the War and  those who are not doing the actual dirty work, try to help ease their guilt by constantly passing on emails and offering things like the yellow ribbons to help “Support the Troops”.  From my experience these, thought the thought is nice, are a joke.  The only way to support the troops is to bring them home.

The worst part is that even bringing them home doesn’t work for the PTSD sufferers.  They will continue to re-fight this war in their minds through PTSD flashbacks and remember again things they’ve seen and done or failed to do. Their PTSD nightmares keep them from escaping their torment even when they are asleep.

When people realize that most of these poor people who are labeled our enemies are just like us. This compounds the transgressions done in the name of freedom.  It can be a guilt that may be carried forever.

We can help these PTSD sufferers not by paying lip service to our support but by trying to reach out to them and getting them to help.  If they resist at least get them to our site to start to post about their feelings to start getting them some way to acknowledge their pain.  We are free service and open 24 hours a day 365 days a year.  The best disinfectant is the light of day.