I read a description the other day about a returning Iraq vet who was told, kindly, “I can’t imagine what you’ve been through”. While the comment was meant supportively it felt, the man claimed, as if he’d been put in a category that few others could understand. It made him feel isolated.
Thinking of my father’s generation, World War II veterans in England, I could see that most of the civilian population at the time could imagine only too well what the serving men and women had gone through. Almost everyone served in some capacity, doing war work, undergoing rationing, and so on. The major cities of Europe were blitzed and bombed with some regularity for years. Those people, all of them, knew the terrors of war first hand.
The same situation does not hold today in the US.
Which put me in mind of today’s military enthusiasts, re-enactors, and so on. Most of those people have never been in combat (with exceptions, of course). I wondered if the desire to dress in uniforms, to own guns or replicas, and to drive military vehicles was just that – an attempt to understand what it was that our veterans had been through and to offer them solidarity, understanding, and yes, even love.
This is, sometimes, how we strive to get in touch with each other’s experiences, and to feel the pain of others. And perhaps part of this is linked to the tenacious determination of so many to cling to the Second Amendment. Behind it lurks love, and sadness, and grief.