Come Home

I have been wrestling once again with the violence injected into our lives by our ceaseless military action around the globe. In particular, I am once again struck by the suffering of so many former soldiers, the “wounded warriors,” as we call them today.

Earlier I reflected on the remarkable book by Edward Tick, War and the Soul, which helped launch our current efforts to deal with the war that will not leave the soldier’s mind. And indeed, the perpetual war abroad is relived every day by hundreds of Americans killed and wounded by the guns churned out by our armaments industry and marketed by the gun lobby to a fear-driven society.

On June 3, The New Yorker ran a piece by Nicholas Schmidle, “In the Crosshairs: A Former Sniper’s Fateful Mission,” which recounts the story of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. After killing over 160 people in Iraq, he returned to a civilian life plagued with the emotional turbulence of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

His 2012 memoir, American Sniper, became a best seller. He ended up being killed by another former soldier he tried to help by taking him to a shooting range to try to deal with his violence-prone existence. Whatever we might think of such an effort at rehabilitation, Kyle’s struggle is a prism through which we can see the myriad forms of violence that are shattering our politics, our families, our public life, and our very language.

The war we took abroad and that we try to reduce to a video game has come home. Here’s my effort to try to grasp this age-old human tragedy.

The war came home today,

the howling headaches in the night,

the gun beside us in the bed,

the loved ones turned to ghosts and shadows,