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January 26, 2005

War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning

War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning is written by Chris Hedges, a fifteen-year war correspondent and reporter. This, his first book, looks at the seduction and poison of war; how it is integrated into our lives and societies, and points out for us the truths that come from war and the corruption, destruction and perversion that it leads to.

Hedges will tell you "I am NOT a pacifist." This is not a diatribe about the evils of violence, but a profound statement about reality and existence, intertwining morality, philosophy, and personally-witnessed experience.

He has seen children killed in the streets, been prisoner in the Middle East, and immersed in the political turmoil of El Salvador. He lived, worked, breathed with the people who are most affected by war: those being attacked, and those doing the attacking.

I had the opportunity to listen to Mr. Hedges on January 25th, 2005. He gave a speech at my University using information from writing this book. He spoke for an hour, and then answered questions from the audience.

One woman asked how he thought that women in combat would be able to come home and have children after the war. He answered that he didn't know. He pointed out studies showing that more men died from suicide after the Vietnam War than died in combat itself. He said that he would rather not have psychological damage after covering war, and yet it is common.“Seeing a dead child after having my own was almost unbearable because I understood the fragility and sanctity of life,” he said.

Mr. Hedges also talked about the current war in Iraq being perpetuated by America. He said that "The War on Terror" is nearly illogical and a play of words, because "terror" is an abstraction, and fighting a war on it is fighting a war on an idea.

War, Mr. Hedges says, is exhilirating and often addictive. He told us of many friends he lost, addicted to war and the coverage of it that they could not get out. Men and women in Iraq, Bosnia, and the Balkans who found the seduction and power of war to be too much to break free from. He says "[War] gives us purpose, meaning, a reason for living."

I am reviewing this book because I think that it would be an excellent title for our group to consider reading soon. It is honest, real, and at the same time extremely eloquent and profound. I have learned much from this book about why I feel how I do about war (which I will not mention here because I do not want to push my opinion on others), and how others may respond to war in the manner that they do respond. It will open eyes and hearts and minds, and it may be integral to the continuation of our society.

Posted by at January 26, 2005 06:11 PM


Sara, this sounds like an excellent book. I'll pick it up even if we don't read it here. I've often thought that war gives meaning, a sense of purpose, to those who participate in it. I hadn't really thought of the seduction aspect ... very interesting. Now that I think about it, I came across a quote a couple months ago from a soldier who had just returned home from Iraq. He wanted to go back as quickly as possible because of he said "there's no rush like it in civilian life." I immediately thought "yes, there is ... you're just too young to realize it." Then I thought "what is wrong with our society -- how disconnected are we from each other -- if we can't feel the rush of community each and every day ... not just in times of stress." Ok, it's next on my list!

Posted by: Kerstin at January 26, 2005 07:45 PM