This post is part of the blog “Pulling on Trouble’s Braids” by CCC officer Robin Berger. Robin explores issues of race, gender, class and privilege, seeking ways to bridge the many great divides of contemporary American life.
He rolls through a couple of times a year, often with a bottle of pretty great scotch and a whole lot of stories. A white guy, circling somewhere around 60, he’s physically fit – he swims, climbs 150 flights of stairs when he’s home. He was a medic in the Navy. For years now he’s been a mercenary, working as a guard or a medic in various war spots around the world…Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa.
Of course his name is “Doc.”
His conversations should more likely be called monologues. He rarely pauses for breath.
He was here last week, helping care for his dad who just had heart surgery. He brought burritos from town just because, “I figured you gotta eat.” Last time it was pizza. He’s wrapped pretty tight, all quick hand gestures and voice raised; often he’ll stand to make a point. His words fall faster and faster as he involves himself in telling a story.
Last time he came by was just after the election. Although he didn’t support Trump, he was thought Trump’s win was no big deal, “funny, really,” he said. His girlfriend of three years (a Clinton supporter), found this untenable. They are no longer together. I remember him laughing about it all at the time … the election, his break-up, all of it. Voice falsetto he says, “Doc! This election is horrible,” and flutters his eyes. To me, his mannerisms could be poster-children for PTSD; agitation, numbness, laughing when others would cry.
“They’re animals … savages … ignorant …” hesays, of those he’s fought against.
I try to break in, “Doc …” I start to say.
“Yeah, yeah, I know, I should meet some nice Afghanies,” he says sarcastically.
He then tells a story about how he and a buddy killed an Afghan elder. He says they were driving about 70 mph when the older man stepped out in front of their Humvee. There was no chance of stopping he says, and then laughs. “Man, at 70 miles per hour, he flew pretty far.”
“Inshallah,” he says, shrugging his shoulders.
I try again to express my outrage at what he’s saying. His eyes glaze over … he’s heard it all before. When he leaves I’m left wondering. How do you hold space with someone like Doc? Who calls an entire group of people horrible names, who brings burritos when he comes to visit and loves his dad? What do you say to someone who has spent much of his life in a war?
He’s leaving this week to go to a funeral for a military buddy. Those folks that fight in our names, and they don’t live long, most of them. But he’ll be back … in September, probably. So I’m asking again … what do you say to someone who has spent much of his life in a war?