Saturday, September 27, 2008

A pitch-perfect piece of reporting

William Finnegan in the New Yorker tells the tragic story of the suicides of an Iraq veteran with debilitating PTSD and his brother, himself long suffering from mental illness.

It is simply perfect reporting: Finnegan interviews the veteran's widow, the brothers' parents and other loved ones, as well as marine buddies -- all this within 3 months of their deaths. He perfectly captures the veteran's charm and wit, and the depth of love his wife had for him; as well as the clinical experience of PTSD and the men's path towards self-destruction.

There are just some wrenching quotes. A sampling:

He and Kellee planned another family weekend, but Travis didn’t show up. Kellee was furious. When he finally arrived, on Sunday evening, he was drunk. She wouldn’t let him in the house, or allow him to see the girls. Instead, they sat together on the front porch and talked for half an hour. Her regrets from that night are ferocious. “If I had just brought him inside,” she said. “Just taken him upstairs and made love to him, or tried to. Just told him it would be O.K., played that role.” She never saw him again.


Nancy [the mother] recalled a letter Travis had sent from Iraq to be read at his younger sister’s wedding. “It said, ‘You may not be able to see me, but I’m there.’ I thought of that when we saw him so messed up. We could see him, but he wasn’t there. It just wasn’t him.” Douglas said, “None of us had ever seen him like that. It was like he was in a trance. He didn’t sound like himself. He was flatlining, like he had no personality. He had lost all that stuff of his, that love of trying to fool people. He said, ‘Dad, I think I’m very sick.’

Please, read this article. It'll mess you up right.

Another interesting and disturbing detail: the Pink Floyd cd "The Wall," about suicide and trauma, was found in the car in which the men killed themselves. Trauma breeds trauma: I wonder how Roger Waters will cope with this impact of his music?


Sad Nomad said...

So you come away from this article believing Roger Waters is to blame because one of the 23 million copies of The Wall that sold was found in the car... There was also an Enya CD. Do you want Enya to account for herself? How about Jagermiester? Who made the bullets?

This poor guy was listening to Pink Floyd BEFORE he went to war. He killed himself after he came home from war. I think something more causative may have happened in between the two...

But there's no time like the present to test your theory, since -- as the article states -- more soldiers are killing themselves than at any recorded time. Check their tapes decks! They might be listening to Dark Side of the Moon (given the sales of that record, even more of them should be). You may have to expand the scope of your investigation to include the entire Pink Floyd back catalog:

"Corporal Clegg had a wooden leg
He won it in the war In nineteen forty four
Corporal Clegg umbrella in the rain
He's never been the same
No one is to blame"

Maybe someone is to blame, but I really don't think it's Roger Waters. I wonder how that guy smiling in the picture at the top of the article will cope the impact of HIS work?

I wonder how we all will. I would hate to see the day come when we start to blame Blue Oyster Cult...

Matt Schwarzfeld said...

Sad Nomad - first, thanks for reading. Second, I don't believe Roger Waters is to blame, and I hope that's not what my post suggested. What I was trying to get at is the presumed posture of guilt: this soldier thought he was responsible for things he had no control over. Roger Waters has no control over the state of mind of his listeners: he's just being honest, and open, and expository (as is the responsibility of a good artist like himself). The important question is: to what degree do we bear the burdens of other people's faulty decisions, if we believe those decisions in some way were influenced by us. I do not believe Roger Waters had anything to do with anything... but I wonder how he bears this.d