The Anger of Moral Injury

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“I think, when one has been angry for a very long time, one gets used to it. And it becomes comfortable like…like old leather. And finally… it becomes so familiar that one can’t remember feeling any other way.” Jean Luc Picard, Star Trek the Next Generation, The Wounded

When I returned from Iraq in 2008 I was angry, Angry at at the trinity of evil, the politicians, pundits and preachers of the political right who I had believed, followed and trusted during the previous decades. That anger diffused itself so it was  not an all the time kind of thing but it remained, while I tried to believe that I was different then them, even though I no longer agreed with them I was just as angry as the most foul talk radio host, pundit or politician.

Jesus told us to “be angry and sin not.” Truthfully I haven’t figured out how to do that, the anger I have has become a part of me, and I really don’t like it.

My anger I believe is valid because those people betrayed not just me, but so many others in the drive to an unjust, illegal and immoral war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. A war that cost the lives of far too many Americans, not to mention our allies and the Iraqis, a war that hurt this country economically, strategically, militarily and helped build up the radicalized Islamists who had attacked us on 9-11-2001. The war was one of the most bungled, inept and disastrous moves ever launched by a political administration, despite the brave sacrifice and even battlefield successes of our troops. When I came home I found that some of the people who I had trusted in the Chaplain Corps, really didn’t care about me, just what I could do for them now, past service, sacrifice or experience be damned. I felt betrayed, that betrayal is is something that is part of what is called “moral injury.”

I was able to convince myself that even if I disagreed with them and occasionally got angry that it was not that much a part of me. But the anger remained, compounded by the very real symptoms of PTSD I always notice the comments, the lies, the and the invective spewed by these apostles of hate. I would hear them, watch them, and read what they said and the anger continued to build, and at times in absolute frustration, pain and just wanting to strike out in any way I could I occasionally launched into very angry blogs and social media posts, posts that when I read them later, or had someone point them out were embarrassing to read.

Those posts might have been justified based on how I felt, but they were not good. I am sure that I lost some friends because of them, but in some cases I still don’t feel too bad, because some of those “friends” only liked me if I agreed with them. Since I have many real friends that span the political, economic and religious spectrum, men and women that often hold radically different views than me I know that my ideology does not consume me.

What consumes me is anger at those that don’t care. those who would use me and others for their own ends and then be the first to throw us under the bus.

A couple of days ago one of those idiot, pompous and hate filled men that populate the right wing radio airwaves. a man named Michael Savage called Veterans with PTSD weak crybabies and that with such soldiers that it was no wonder ISIS was beating us. If you want to read his remarks the link is here. Coming from a man who has made his money off of those in the military, the wounded that he so savagely mocks, who has never served in uniform or put himself in harm’s way for the country does anger me.

http://mediamatters.org/blog/2014/10/21/michael-savages-disgusting-rant-ptsd-and-depres/201248

When I saw it, all of the anger, all of the pain, and yes, even the hatred burst forth. On a social media network I commented that I Savage deserved to be taken out and shot and made some other unseemly remarks. Was my anger okay? Yes. Was I factual about things that he was saying and doing in what I wrote? Yes. But did my outburst made me look like as much of a hateful ass as Savage. 

A friend, a fellow combat vet and senior NCO sent me a note about it. One thing that he said cut me to the bone because he was absolutely right. He was not defending Savage at all, but he said that he didn’t like to see me, a friend that he respected “spewing hate.”  When I thought about it overnight I realized that he was right and thanked him.

Now do I care that some people think I’m an ass or disagree with my positions on various issues? Not at all, in fact there are times that admittedly I try to provoke a response just to thin out the ranks of the haters. But this went beyond that. I was wishing someone dead, but as much as I may disagree with a person, as much as I may hate everything that they stand for, as much as I think my anger is justified, saying that the man “should be taken out and shot” is inexcusable. It is no different than the very things that Savage and others like him say all the time, three hours a day five days a week.

My anger at such people and their continued lies, deceit, self justification and hatred has become comfortable as comfortable as “old leather” as Jean Luc Picard so eloquently stated. The episode of Star Trek the Next Generation episode where he said it is one that always makes me think. During the episode, the transporter Chief, Chief O’Brien tells a Cardassian officer, a representative of a still distrusted recent enemy something that was reminded of when my friend mentioned me “spewing hate” at Savage.

O’Brien told the Cardassian “It’s not you I hate, Cardassian. I hate what I became because of you.” 

So I still have to work through this, but once again I think that the writers of Star Trek the Next Generation have helped enlighten me about what is going on in my life. After loyally trusting and following the politicians, pundits and preachers of the right I realize that I hate what I have become because of them.

So I’ll get ready to sign off. I only had a couple of hours of sleep last night and I have been up a long time as I flew to California today.

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under faith, News and current events, Political Commentary, PTSD

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