VFP members, I would be interested in your comments on this take on PTSD:
One side of post-traumatic stress that not many people talk about — maybe because it’s so hard to separate from waging a modern war — is the way a nation and its military tend to dehumanize the opposing side. Erich Maria Remarque’s novel about World War I, All Quiet on the Western Front, took dehumanization as its theme, and it still has a lot to say about war trauma even if Americans have cornered the market on clinical descriptions of PTSD.
Some interesting summer reading suggested in this second quote.
The psychologist Jonathan Shay, in his essential book on combat stress called Achilles in Vietnam, points out one difference between the Trojan War and America’s war in Southeast Asia: “The Iliad contains no derogatory nicknames for the enemy used by soldiers when talking among themselves; we hear no hint of ancient equivalents of ‘Gook,’ ‘Dink,’ ‘Zip,’ or ‘Slope,’ used so freely at all levels of the American military in Vietnam.”
Shay says honor for the enemy — for his fighting skills as well as his will to live — helps a soldier maintain common sense during a war and stay sane afterward. Officers who underestimate the Japanese fighting ability, he argues, may fail to predict something like Pearl Harbor (which really happened); and a soldier who comes home feeling he fought a war against subhuman vermin is in trouble whether his side loses or wins. “The veteran’s self-respect never fully recovers as long as he is unable to see the enemy as worthy,” Shay writes. “Restoring honor to the enemy is an essential step in recovery from PTSD.”