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Fear of scars

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Politicians love dead soldiers.  I mean they are the kind politicians love the best.  They love them best of all when they were safely planted in the ground before the politician was elected, that way the Right Honourable Minister or can claim the glory for an action they were never part of, without having to worry about the price some other official had to answer for already.  They never miss the chance to appear at fifty year old graves.

As much as they love the dead, the fear the wounded.  They will show up and smile while other, better men and women salute the dead, they will smile and know the position of every camera as they stand posed beside whatever relative they could dig up for the photo op. They run with hands, briefcases, and folders in front of their faces when wounded soldiers families seek the Minister’s ear about their duty to the living.

There was a time we in this country could stand proud of how we cared for those who risked their lives for their nation, and came back wounded, and frequently short a limb or two.  Those days are past.  With our new Veteran’s Charter, we guarantee that we are done paying for our soldiers the second we shuffle them out the door.  One time lump sum, and don’t ask to relocate because we stopped covering that when you stopped being useful to us.  If your home was not chosen with the understanding you would be handicapped, well too bad, if only you would have known which limbs you were going to lose, you would have been better positioned for your new life. (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/new-veterans-charter-shortchanges-our-disabled-soldiers/article1213169/)

Funny thing about the kind of soldiers that get combat injuries, they are not the fraction that know how to quit, that have any give in them.  They are the kind of human beings you pretty much have to kill or they will get up the next day and soldier on.  They are, frankly, the best of us.

Mcpl Paul FranklinMcpl Paul Franklin (left)

Politicians do not like to see Cadpat (Canadian camouflage) on pinned limbless sleeves or prosthetic limbs, even though the CF has worked hard through its rehab center in the University of Alberta at Edmonton and in partnership with the US through facilities such as Walter Reed Hospital to ensure that such soldiers have every chance to return to as high a function as possible through the same sort of punishing training regimens they followed to prepare for war.

Major Mark CampbellMajor Mark Campbell
Soldiers wear their scars with pride, because they are the signs of battles won.  Not the battle on the field, that one belongs to the person you were before, but the thousands of little battles to win back ground that you lost, and to master new skills, new disciplines to gain ground you will need to carry on.  These fights are won with pride, with iron discipline, and with the heavy baggage of pain, fear, and the very real burden of our shame culture. (http://www.canada.com/health/army+amputees+Edmonton+rehab+centre+state/6191765/story.html)

We, as a society, are shamed by scars.  They threaten our sense of self, our sense of safety.  We do not know how to handle people who bear their scars not with shame, but with pride, for it calls into question, deep inside ourselves, if they are not ashamed of their scars, should we then be ashamed of our fear of those same scars?

The answer of course is yes.  To be afraid of those scars, and to try to shame the people with them into giving up and getting out of uniform, getting out of the public eye, and letting us stop thinking about the ugly reality of war, and get back to the romantic fantasy the politicians sell so successfully, is nothing less than moral cowardice in our society, in our media, and most assuredly, in our government.

We wish to force these brave men and women out as unfit, when these same men and women are climbing mount Kilimonjaro, some literally without a leg of flesh to stand on, as a personal test to show they have conquered their wounds, and reclaimed their power.
That is the heart of a warrior, that is the steel of a soldier, that is the soul of a people.

That is somehow not good enough, they are an unsightly reminder of the cost of doing business.  The dead are safe and distant, they do not walk, or talk, or join you in the coffee lineup.  They do not show up at Parent Teacher interviews, or pick up their kids after school.  The dead we remember once a year, but not unexpectedly, only in the safe place or through the TV screen, we don’t round the corner and find them  at dropping off mail in your inbox at the office.  But the scarred, the dismembered but unbowed do.  They challenge us by their courage, they shame us by their service, and we punish them for it.
Strong beautiful women are told they should cover up their prosthetic, men who walk their kid to school on limbs of titanium are treated as freaks and disturbances rather than heroes.

Female Veterans

This was not always so.  Our gods long ago enshrined sacrifice as holy, as worthy, and as powerful.  Our gods bore their scars with arrogance, as glory tokens, as do our wounded now.  Odin gave up an eye for knowledge and hides it not.  Bare scar or black patch, he is ever and always depicted with the scars of his sacrifice proudly displayed, for he is the Victory Father, and this is what victory looks like.

Odin Face
Tyr gave his sword arm to Fenris Wolf to save the people of this world, even at the cost of his battle ability.  His stump is proudly displayed, and indeed the empty glove is often used as his token in our rites, for his sacrifice is his proof that his commitment to his folk was not empty.  Empty sleeve, not empty words is his sign an truth.

Tyr arm

These are gods, one of them the foremost magician in any age.  Could they not have crafted some wonder to hide their disfigurement?  Of course they could, they had tokens of magic and wonder aplenty, and shape shifting was a gift possessed by Odin at least.  They did not.  I don’t think our ancestors ever wondered why, nor could they fathom our fear of scars.

To look upon the scars of a woman, and see her head high and proud, her laugh loud and joyous and know your folk are strong still.  Look upon men who have given their very limbs to the service of their country and ask only to continue in that service, who literally climb mountains to prove their continued commitment to that purity of purpose and know your folk are unconquerable.

I get mad when others see such beauty as displayed by the power, the will, and the courage to soldier on that these brave men and women display is treated as shameful because other, lesser men and women, are disturbed by the sight.  I admit, when others seek to force out, or shame these amazing individuals because sight of their wounds bothers them, the urge to slap the fecal matter out from where they ought to have stored their common sense, common courtesy, and understanding of worth comes upon me strongly.

Scars are victory tokens, they are worn by the survivors.  Scars of service are the grave goods by which your ancestors will know the tales of your service and the strength of their blood.  Wear them with pride, and make the cowards choke on it.

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One thought on “Fear of scars

  1. This is a good affecting look at this specific point. I am delighted you discussed your views as well as knowledge and I discovered that i believe I agree. I truly respect the very clear writing additionally , the effort and hard work you’ve you spend writing this post. Loads of thanks yous for that decent work and good luck with the site, I am looking forward to updates within the future.

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