I’ve been so glued to reports from Fort Meade that I keep putting off commenting on the way it’s being framed by the media; I will soon, with links to cogent analyses by others. But in the meantime, one piece of unfinished sorta- Veterans Day business: I wanted to hype an amazing resource on soldiers, civilians and struggle, with some of the best writing out there.
The Dart Society, composed of journalists interested in trauma, devoted the November issue of its newish magazine Dart Society Reports to veterans, edited by star journalist Jina Moore. Included in its super-rich contents:
- Dale Maharidge’s essay about his father’s troubling World War II story
- New Yorker writer Sarah Stillman’s smart, funny and historically savvy exploration of “Sex and the Wounded Soldier“
- Triply decorated Anthony Marquez’ declaration of what newer veterans need when they need to talk about what happened, “Just Get Out of the Way!”
- And leaving me speechless was Lee Hancock’s exploration of the double betrayal that is military sexual trauma, told through the brave testimony of Rebekah Havrilah: “The Rape Was Not the Only Problem.”
I did want to mention that in connection with the issue, the Society editors asked me for a Q&A or the Dart Society blog. They asked me to talk about soldiers who dissent, which got me to elaborate on my definition of same:
Some of the early dissent was quite private — a letter home bemoaning the war, a cryptic but elegiac poem — and some public but wordless, like desertion or a refusal to cross a border when ordered. When troops desert, it doesn’t always mean they’re dissenting — they could be homesick or felonious – but when large-scale desertion occurs, it’s a symptom that something has gone very wrong.
From 1754 on, though, enlistees were also not afraid to confront their commands when they felt it necessary. They considered themselves citizens with rights and formed “committees” like the ones that started the Revolution. In a famous 1779 “riot,” Philadelphia militiamen marched on the home of the Treasury Secretary to protest inflated bread prices.
Wars that followed, especially wars more obviously of choice, were rife with both crises of conscience and insubordination. Two hundred years ago this year, we were trying to invade Canada in the War of 1812. One of the reasons it failed was because some troops refused to cross the border, others deserting whole platoons at a time.
Even what most folks consider the “good” wars, the Civil War and World War II, engendered the most passionate critics of the wars that followed. Frederick Douglass’ son Lewis spoke out against the Spanish-American War after fighting in the Civil War’s famous Massachusetts 54th, and William Kunstler was an army major in Asia in 1944, before leading the early movement against the Vietnam War.
Then there are what I call the gender-dissenters: gay troops surviving purges and persecution, and women at first dissenting simply by serving. Harriet Tubman led operations in the South and recruited black soldiers, which at the time felt as revolutionary as you get. And the recent movement on behalf of survivors of military sexual trauma is so profoundly, brilliantly disruptive that it sounds chords with so many prior dissenters.
Whatever you think of my ramblings, go over and look at the issue: the writing over there will delight and change you. And the Society knows what she knows – that every day should be Veterans Day.