Sunday, January 20, 2008

Casualties of war

Everywhere you turn these days the government, and quite a few people, have declared war: war on terror, drugs, cancer, etc. But what about the prisoners and casualties of these wars? What happens to them?

We have a vast vocabulary for war but not many words for peace and even less experience with peace. Our economy works best during war, when we are producing the materiel and foods to sustain war. During peace time, our economy flounders and founders after the first few years of prosperity in the wake of war reparation, leaving the sick and wounded and their families and friends bereft. I wonder if it's genetic or if we are addicted to the adrenalin rush and, like junkies, we crave action and discord. Whatever the cause, we need to establish and maintain a vocabulary and mind set for peace otherwise we will continue to go to war to ease the tensions of living at peace when everything inside us aches for the return of adrenalin-fueled violence.

One friend has been deep in the midst of a crushing depression because of such a domestic war. She was beaten down when she stood up for what was right and responsible and fought until she could fight no more. But her opponent was stronger and had many more years of experience with battle, having won for so long because of my friend's lack of desire to fight. It was easier to allow to step aside or lie down and stay quiet until the storm passed. Now she's dealing with the knowledge that she made a bad deal, that she put the idea of family ahead of everything else in her life even though there is no real sense or fact of family to protect. That's the way it is with children who are the products of alcoholic parents. If they don't turn into alcoholics themselves, and that fear is paramount in my friend's life, they become pleasers and caretakers who put themselves and everything they are or wish to be at risk. The end up with abusive spouses in most cases and feel they are the ones to blame because they're not generous enough, not quiet enough, no helpful enough, no loving enough, simply not enough. They carry the burden of the relationship emotionally, mentally and sometimes even financially struggling to maintain the illusion of family. A spouse and children do not make a family just like a house does not make a home. The intangibles are missing. The feelings of family and home aren't there. They go through the motions of family and home like children with bank accounts playing house but the real feelings, the very essence of home and family don't exist, and there is no way to create it because there is no love with which to create it.

When families fall apart after a death or divorce they aren't falling apart; they never existed in the first place. No amount of glue will hold them together. They might seem to be together, but the sense of common values and needs and the fact of love were never there. They were individuals who agreed to eat and sleep and visit and live together, but they were never a family, not really. Distance and personal concerns do not destroy a family; nothing destroys a real family.

When people, like my friend, get their emotional needs met from others in such a way that allows them to continue in an abusive and dysfunctional relationship, they miss the point. They are not doing themselves or their spouses and children any favors. They simply perpetuate the lie and the facade of being a family and they give the abuse spouse more power because they have given up their own power to stay. Unfortunately, I know far too many people like that -- people who stay in dysfunctional relationships for the kids or because they think they're too old to start over -- and as much as it pains me I have had to learn to walk away. I offer a hand up and advice, but most people don't want assistance, they want somewhere they can go, someone to whom they can go to get their emotional needs met so they can stay for the sake of appearances. They use their friends and the ones they love like copper top batteries, feeding on their energy, not to harm, but to exist, to stay, to feed the power hungry abuser to whom they cling. Being a battery for such a relationship is draining and it only makes things worse, but it's hard to walk away from someone you love.

I've learned to think of it as a friend who stepped into quicksand. I will keep holding out a hand while I'm anchored to solid ground only so long as they are willing to stay calm and help themselves out. If they continue to flail and sink deeper and deeper, as much as I love them, I have to let go or go down with them. I will miss them and I will grieve for them, but I will not let go of my own life to commit suicide with them. It's a hard decision to make -- the point at which you walk away -- and it never stops hurting, especially when you have to watch them sinking deeper and deeper in the muck, but they have a decision to make, too. They must either save themselves or continue to commit slow suicide. I choose not to watch.

Some casualties of war never recover, locked in nightmares and flashbacks of horrors beyond imagining. Some casualties of war make it halfway back and some make it all the way back only to give their lives and their resources over to greedy exploiters who never lost the taste for war while they consume all the resources and energy around them in every way possible. We need to learn to live with peace and find the strength inside us to cut off the resources and energy to the greedy hordes -- or even to one single greedy person bent on exploitation -- or they will destroy us all and there will be no one left standing to mourn the lost and dead.

That is all. Disperse.

No comments: