TheRelationship between Love and War
Thehuman nature is unique from one person to the other, but somecharacteristics are common to everyone. For instance, forgiving,creating, destroying and loving are all common tendencies in manypeople. However, the issue of violence among humans is highlycontroversial. Some ideologists believe that humans are naturallycruel, therefore, the reason they occasionally engage in bloodyconflicts. On the contrary, some thinkers argue that humans arepeaceful creatures that only engage in conflicts out of necessity. Assuch, they are bound to show mercy, even in heart-wrenchingsituations that necessitate the use of brutality. In the book, TheThings They Carried byTim O’Brien, the author disagrees with the stereotype that humansare predictably violent through recounting the experiences of theAlphaCompany membersin the Vietnam War. Instead, he argues that humans have innate‘saving grace’ in their system even with the most aggressivesettings.
Oneof the ways O’Brien proves that humans have a ‘saving grace’ ina hostile environment is his personal experience in the war.Immediately after graduating from college, O’Brien is drafted inthe military so that he can be sent to Vietnam. However, he makes itclear that he is uninterested in the war as he has never even held agun in the past and does not believe in the principles the war isbased on. He joins the war because is worried that he would bebranded a coward. “Ifeared the war, yes, but I also feared exile. I was afraid of walkingaway from my own life, my friends and my family, my whole history,everything that mattered to me”(O’Brien 37). If O’Brien was naturally aggressive, he wouldneither have attempted running away to Canada, to avoid going toVietnam, nor spent several years attending college so that he couldwork in a civilian career. He makes it clear that he does not want tojoin the war as he is afraid of dying in the combat zone.Furthermore, he describes the war as unnecessary because it shedsinnocent blood. If humans are naturally villain, O’Brien could nothave had any mercy towards the Vietnamese.
Inanother situation to support that, humans have a saving grace in allsituations, is Norman Bowker’s struggle with post-traumatic stressdisorder (PTSD). He wrote a letter to his colleague and friend in thearmy, O’Brien, claiming that he has been unable to adjust to anormal life due to his experiences in the war. “Ingeneral. My life, I mean. It`s almost like I got killed over in Nam .. . Hard to describe”(Obrien 106). PTSD is a psychological condition that occurs after anindividual experiences horrible events. In many cases, army veteransinvolved in bloody wars, such as the Vietnam conflict, leave thearmed forces with long-term war memories that prevent them from goingback to normal lifestyles. Eventually, Bowker commits suicide at theIowa YMCA. If he were naturally brutal, he would not have sufferedfrom the guilt conscience due to the atrocities he committed inVietnam. A malicious person would remain composed and unaffected bythe horrible experiences in Vietnam. According to Jonathan Bisson,individuals suffering from the condition experience a foreshortenedfuture sense, estranged feelings and decreased activities in coreresponsibilities (Bisson 398). Bowker could not hold a regular job,and he was unable to go back to college. If he were a true villain,he would have resisted the war trauma. Unfortunately, the soldier’smercy for the assailants he maimed creates an extremely negativeimpact to the extent of committing suicide.
Thecontents that each soldier carries in the war zone can also help tobring out their human nature. For example, Jimmy Cross found solacein the letters Martha had sent him. Each time he had a chance, hecould read them, and then imagine taking her to Romantic getaways, aswell as other peaceful places that were free of risks that he facedin the Vietnam. Amazingly, Cross found the letters from hisgirlfriend intriguing because they did not mention the Vietnam War.“Shenever mentioned the war, except to say, Jimmy, take care of yourself”(O’Brien 16). Had the soldier been inevitably violent, he would nothave been so obsessed with the letters he received from Martha to theextent of reading them frequently, in spite of, they did not mentionthe combat experience. Similarly, Ted Lavender must have beenselected as a member of the Alpha Company because he was an excellentsoldier. However, the author reveals that he always carried 6-7ounces of dope until he died. In the article, ADrug to Cure Fear,the author provides that individuals suffering from anxiety, panicand phobias often use drugs to mask their fear (Friedman). Using thesame line of thinking, it is then evident that Lavender took drugs asa way to manage the traumatic war experiences he faced in the VietnamWar. Consequently, his experience emphasizes that soldiers have anatural disposition for mercy towards others even in hostileenvironments.
Finally,O’Brien proves that even soldiers are emotionally attached to theirfriends through describing the reaction of colleagues when theirclose friends died in the combat zone. One of the experiences herecounts is the death of Curt Lemon. A booby-trapped 105 roundkilled Lemon. Rat Kiley, his best friend, is the most affected by thedemise of the soldier. He takes upon him to inform Lemon’s sisterthat her brother is dead. In addition, he relieves his anger oflosing his best friend by killing the water young water buffalo theyhad caught. In ordinary circumstances, Rat would probably have sparedthe animal, but he killed it because he wanted to relieve the angerof losing a dear friend. According to Paul Hoffman, humans usevarious anger management approaches such as revenging (Hoffman 29).The action of killing the buffalo was not a regular villain action,but a way of relieving anger and displaying the love for the fallensoldier during the war. Similarly, Cross’ action of burning up thewhole Than Khe village was a way of dealing with his anger after hisfriend, Ted Lavender, passed away. Both Cross and Rat would not haveengaged in the random violence if emotion did not overcome them. Assuch, they still had a sense of sympathy despite the harshenvironment in the war.
Inconclusion, humans have innate ‘saving grace’ in their systemeven with the most aggressive settings. Consequently, the love fortheir family, colleagues and rampant killings does not overcome humandignity even in the war. The soldiers mourn when their colleagues dieto the extent of avenging them. Rat kills the baby buffalo to ventout the rage of losing his best friend in the war, while Cross leadsthe platoon in razing down an entire village because the Vietnamesekilled Lavender. In all the cases described, the soldiers engage inextreme brutality because they have been pushed so far by theexisting circumstances. In addition, if they fail to act, theirassailants would kill them. Therefore, the violence arises as a formof self-defense as opposed to indiscriminate and merciless killingsvillains conduct. Other soldiers engage n violence as a way ofrelieving anger as opposed to emphasizing their level of malice.
Bisson,Jonathan I. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. OccupationalMedicine Journal57.6.(2007):399-403. Web. 8 May 2016. Doi: 10.1093/occmed/kqm069
Hoffman,Paul. AngerManagement Techniques: Help for Anger.United States: CreateSpace, 2011. Print.
O`Brien,Tim. TheThings They Carried: A Work of Fiction.Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1990. Internet resource.
Friedman,Richard A. A Drug to Cure Fear. NewYork Times.22 Jan 2016. Web. 8 May 2016.