A More Personal Life

This morning, I cried as I read the sad story of an army doctor who died in a mortar attack in Mosul on Christmas morning.  His wife had spoken to him every day during his deployment, and when he didn’t call she thought he must be working on a soldier, trying to patch him up  or save his life.  But that wasn’t the case.  That morning, he lay down on his bed, and was killed in the kind of explosion that happens near our men in their barracks more frequently than any loved one cares to imagine.

We personalize these stories.  We give them names, ages, the number of children they leave behind, because it connects us to them.  It makes them real.  And it makes good (read: popular) news stories.  But more often, we hear just numbers.  Americans killed.  Indians killed.  Iraqis killed.  Pakistanis killed.  It’s a stock market ticker in our collective psyche, with only the occasional real story to indicate that these bodies had lives.

I have heard so much about how each life is valuable, each baby a gift.  I hear we should not depersonalize an unborn child by saying “fetus”.  And yet, in order to remove ourselves from the actuality of war, we shy away from identifying individuals, as if our adults are somehow less precious.  Our sons, husbands and fathers are “troops;” the human beings who suffer for their ideals, or for merely being in the wrong place at the wrong moment, are “citizens” or “nationals” or “civilians.”  We hear of casualties, not of the pain of loss for one town, one village, one family.

Perhaps if we knew the whole of the truth, it would be too much to bear.  Or perhaps it might make us hesitate, just a bit, to be so sure of ourselves and our place in the world.

Although these pseudo-news stories most likely aim to attract readers and viewers, they perform a valuble service.  They allow us, however momentarily, to see a far-away person, not as a number, but as a story much like our own.

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One Response to “A More Personal Life”

  1. well-said and so true. I also imagine that your experience as an Army wife makes these stories even more real to you. Some of us have never had a spouse be in a situation like that, to know those feelings or worry and dread. I wonder if anyone is anthologizing stories from this war. I saw a piece in a magazine awhile back (maybe Popular science) about the crazy number of amputees and all the great technology being employed to make life better for these victims. I saw young, young people, with limb gone forever. Of course, better a limb than a mind… one of the sadder effects of war, in my opinion, being the epidemic of PSTD, not a curable or even easily managed malady. No technology yet for the fragile mind.

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