Men And War
Today the 25th of April is Anzac day. I wanted to write an article about men and war because I think that in many respects the issues these men face during and after their military service, are some of the most severe and pressing of any group in our population (Australia, North America and the West etc). That is underscored even further when you consider the sacrifice that these men have made for our countries. The reality is that most of our fallen soldiers have been men and the majority of those serving on the front lines in actual combat are men. This remains as true today in present times as it did in the past.
The Male Soldier
On Anzac day (Memorial day and Veteran’s day in the US) we are reminded to never to forget the sacrifices of those brave men that have fought for us. Yet looking after our veterans after they have come back from war, seems to frequently go on the political and social back burner. I think we forget far too frequently as a society, that the men we send off to war are human beings. They don’t just instantly get better after returning from a warzone or immediately adjust to a normal daily life in society after their service. Why would they? They are not robots. They have seen horrible things, things that none of us should ever have to see. A number of these men come back with serious chronic injuries. Whilst physical disabilities and chronic pain are major issues facing our veterans, this often pales in comparison to the psychological injuries they have suffered. Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be far more debilitating than any amputation or physical disability. More men have committed suicide after returning from duty in the US and Australian military during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, than those that have actually died in combat in those wars. Reflect on that for a moment. What does that say about how we are treating our soldiers when they come back?
A Soldiers Suicide
Society is failing its warriors. If they fight on our behalf, then the least we can do is provide them with the proper medical and mental health services to help them heal, recover and reintegrate into society. Yet in reality many of them face a dearth of support. Without proper rehabilitation, substance abuse and chronic depression take their hold. It is truly a disgrace to think that the men who have risked their lives for their country, cannot get the basic support they need to heal and reintegrate into society. A substantial number of the homeless in the US are veterans and many of them come back to an empty home (see adjacent video on one account of a soldiers suicide). In Australia it is worth considering that a fair amount of our war veterans are also facing financial hardship, particularly amoung the elderly. They deserve better than that, far better.
I think we need to realise that these men have done their duty and now it is our duty as a society to look after them (to support the Anzac appeal click here). That means that they should get the best medical and mental health services money can buy and this should be given free of charge. It means that soldiers and their families are provided with the best support services to help them re-adjust when they come home after deployment. It means that when these men are discharged, they are given the best professional help possible to re-skill and gain meaningful employment. If they need further education or they need to go to university after coming back from war and ending their military service, then that is provided free of charge. We owe them no less after they put their lives in harms way for their country. No veteran should be homeless, be struggling to make ends meet, come back to an empty home and be estranged from their own families or be left to cope with chronic physical pain and post traumatic stress all on their own.
Of all the issues affecting men and boys, war and combat really comes to the forefront of my mind when we talk in men's rights about male disposability. Only men are subject to the draft and selective service. Whilst women are exempt from conscription, men have no choice in the matter. Even now, society still fully expects young men to die in their hundreds of thousands if a major war breaks out. In a society preaching so-called gender equality, this is a glaringly obvious and major double standard. If anyone is privileged in this regard it is women. I have never subscribed to the idea that because a human being is male, then that suddenly makes them more disposable in war. Men are human beings and not machines. There is never an excuse that will ever be good enough to justify otherwise.
Our soldiers have been asked to make a sacrifice that we should never ask anyone to make. I have always felt that the best way to honour these brave men, is to continue to improve our world so that there will not be anymore wars. We should strive to build a human civilisation that fosters peace. When we fail to learn from the horrors of war and when we repeat the same mistakes, we fail these men. We can help end war by valuing the human life of men. Perhaps when we stop treating men as disposable, then the price of war in human lives will be deemed to be to high for our societies to pay. No family should have to lose a male relative in warfare and we should be doing everything we can to make that a reality.
How much human carnage could be averted if we recognised, valued and celebrated the humanity in men? Think about that.
Let us remember on Anzac day that these brave men are human beings.
Lest we forget that.