Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Farther Shore

I recently finished reading The Farther Shore, by Matthew Eck, and I found myself wishing that I had read this book when I was younger and reading books like Ender's Game; never mind that The Farther Shore wasn't published until earlier this year.

It amazed me how this book so perfectly reproduced the way I experienced my military service. Not that I ever got stranded in a city in Africa or accidentally killed kids or even fired my weapon in fear. None of the details are the same, but the essence of it is identical. The feeling of being just yourself, not a soldier, feeling like you don't know what you're doing or what you ought to do. Feeling like the soldier on either side of you is a stranger who might not even be a person the way you are a person, who might even be a monster, mad and untrustworthy. The absence of comraderie, the absence of purpose or conviction or confidence of any kind, whether in the rightness of your mission or in your own ability to keep yourself alive.

Military fiction is often written by people who have never been to war. This book makes me wonder if maybe the world wouldn't be a better place if more soldiers spoke up about what being a soldier is really like. I don't know if it would have kept me from enlisting; maybe my own wish to be a hero would still have overridden my better judgment. I should have known from the information I had at the time that joining the Army wasn't the way to make myself into the person I wanted to be. I can't help but think, though, that the current fashionable thirst for war would be not quite so fashionable if a higher percentage of the population knew what they were asking for.

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