Life As We Know It
I'm having an interesting discussion on my other blog about the situation with our returning soldiers, and it flashed me back to my old neighborhood and all the homeless we had there.
A soldier comes home and discovers that he/she no longer fits in society. They tend to believe that only another soldier understands this feeling. That's not so. I've never been in the military. Because, frankly- basic training scared the crap out of me. The idea of willingly submitting to "being broken" and made into a model soldier was abhorrent to me. So I never signed up. Not even for a chance at college. But I know how it feels to jump to combat readiness because someone nearby is giving off the subtle signals that mean danger.
I used to think my life was not sheltered. If you've read my archives, you might think my life was not sheltered, too. But in it's own wierd way, life was sheltered. We had a code to live by, and if you followed the rules; you were sheltered by the neighborhood. If you didn't follow the code you were abandoned. I followed the code: Acknowledge your betters. Fight when you have to, not when you want to. Keep your nose outta other people's business. Protect anyone who can't protect themselves. Partying is sacred, never mess with The Party... it goes on, but you get the idea. Those were the rules of my world. I had some vague idea that "rich" (i.e. County) people had other rules, but I had no idea what they were. I believed it had something to do with place settings and extended pinky fingers. All that stuff about 2 cars in your garage and having a well landscaped yard was beyond me. I didn't know the "rules" of "society".
The scariest thing I ever did was step out of my own little world, and take on society. It was scarier than going to the abortion clinic, scarier than giving my son up for adoption, and scarier than anything my neighborhood could throw at me. Because while my neighborhood could hurt me, society might break me. Average people do not know that there are people like me around. They don't want to know. I'm a predator, and I recognize other predators. I know when to present a challenging stare and when to lower my eyes and submit. I'm safe with that. I know my place.
Do you know what it's like? If you work at a bar, you do. Ok, I'm ranting. Sorry about that. I meant to talk about my personal evolution. Heh. So here goes...
At first, I just faked it. I dated a county boy and simply did whatever he did. I may not have understood the logic behind the behaviour, but I faked it well enough to pass. Then I started really looking at why middle-class people acted the way they did. Why did they lock their cars then lock the garages that were holding the cars, then carry their keys like a weapon as they walked to their well lit front doors? I mean really! Did they think someone might be lurking in their manicured bushes? What could they possibly fear?
It took me a decade to figure it out. They feared the unknown, the same as everybody else. I feared the unknown of a life beyond my neighborhood. The same holds true for them.
With understanding, comes acceptance. I accept that county fears are just as valid as city fears. My life is no greater than yours, nor is it less.
What does any of this have to do with a soldiers' return, you ask? I say it's the survival factor. Once you've been there, you can't go back. (Let's see if I still believe that when I'm ninety.) You can't just step back to being afraid of your front yard. I don't believe your typical suburbanite wakes in a cold sweat because they were dreaming of stalking an urban landscape; knowing that they were going to take a life, while their spirit cringes inside and quietly wails, "nooo...."
That's one thing soldiers and I share. We know what it's like to do whatever you have to do to survive. We know how it feels to think you've given up a piece of your humanity, and how desperately we want that humanity back.