What Are We Becoming?
This lieutenant found a wounded Vietnamese laying in a rice paddy and he put his foot on the guy's chest. The guy is bleeding from dozens of holes. The lieutenant pushes the guy under water and says, "in goes the good water," then lifts his foot letting the guy float to the surface and says, "out goes the good air." He did this until the guy died. At the time I thought that was just a cute little story. -- Jim Barrett
In Vietnam, American soldiers referred to the United States as The World. "When I get back to The World. . ." was a standard conversational opening. The expression signified the soldiers' feeling of radical severance from a reality of familiar meaning. The war proved so pointless, so contradictory, and so alien to any common assumption about life, they could not even locate the experience in the known world. The war seemed to belong to an unearthly place, a nether world where morality was absent or hopelessly twisted, where rational behavior felt insane and craziness merely prudent, where allies were feared and distrusted as much as enemies, where land and people were destroyed in order to save them, and where killing was the highest purpose and survival the greatest reward.
How did soldiers define and respond to this other world? They could insist that it was bizarre beyond words, beyond imagination -- an unreal world. Yet it made very real demands and posed very concrete dangers. However meaningless their tasks may have felt, however removed from the pursuits and values they attributed to The World, soldiers were ordered to carry out quite specific acts. They