07 June 2016

Post coitum, omne animal triste, est.

A very compelling argument, and Mr. Junger gets almost all of it right, but for one thing: The answer to the questions, "Why would they want to go do that?" Or, "Why would they want to go back?"
The answer that Mr. Junger doesn't talk about, because he doesn't necessarily understand it, is this: Imagine an ER nurse, or an ER doctor, who trains to save trauma patients. They go to school, they learn a ton, they get their license. What if they were only able to work on computer simulators, but never able to save actual people? How compelled would they be, after years of such training, to actually work on a real, live patient? Imagine the frustration of training, and training, and training, but never being able to practice their art.
Now, ask yourself, "do they love the fact that people get hurt in a traumatic way? Do they revel in the carnage of day-to-day life?" Well, of course not.
Neither, in a similar way, do we hope to go and fight. We hope that it doesn't happen, as the ER Nurse prays everyone stays safe while she's on shift. But when it does happen, and we are sent to go and kill the enemies of this nation that have been identified to us, there is a satisfaction that is not unlike the Nurse's satisfaction...
We spent years preparing ourselves for this. We've trained ourselves in a harsh way to be ready for this. Today, when we come to grips with the enemy of our nation, we will be who we have always wished we could be. For that man to our left and to our right. Because, in our stunted little society, each of us would rather die than be found lacking in the eyes of those men... and the rest of the world be damned. In the end, there are two kinds of people: my people (the men to my left and right), and everybody else.
After the fight is over, as he mentions, there is a period where we all wish to go back and be that effective. It isn't that we want to go back and kill. Nor is it that we want to go back and die. We want to feel what we did then, and Aristotle was good enough to coin a phrase that captures it perfectly: POST COITUM, OMNE ANIMAL TRISTE, EST. [After sex, every animal is sad]
Aristotle was smart enough to recognize that copulation has many parallels. It is something big. As we say in the Marine Corps, it is a "significant emotional event". Those events are what characterizes each of us. Because war is so big, so terrible, and lasts for so long, those of us who prosecute it tend to allow that event to identify us, and we miss it. Because many of us feel, as we lay safe in our beds this night, that we were never more effective than when we practiced our art on those fields, and many of us spend the rest of our lives in an attempt to find that effectiveness again.
If Only...

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