Rocks and Repercussions

As this soldier describes her encounter with children throwing rocks at her and fellow soldiers near a war-torn base, she was perplexed by the children’s proximity to land mines (denoted by white-colored rocks). She shifts to the memory of a hospital laden with injured children, victims of these very land mines. These children, disfigured by the cost of war, evoked a sorrowful response in her. Yet, it is not this image of afflicted children that troubles her the most but the comments from her comrades about the children who were throwing rocks near the base.

“We joked to deal with things,” she tells us with an almost half-hearted conviction. She wants to justify her comrades’ inappropriate joke as a means by which to deal with the grimness of war. These images and words about shooting children were exchanged comically between friends, “brothers,” and comrades, yet their implications deeply trouble her as she notes how they have always “stuck with me.”

Today’s media is swarming with stories of troubling words uttered behind closed doors, and with the ongoing political conflict, a person’s character is frequently undermined by distasteful rhetoric. In the backdrop of recent events, is it ever appropriate for this type of repugnant, even hateful, language to surface? Or does the sheer monstrosity of war create an impunity for any and all humor, no matter how distasteful? Does this humor help to connect comrades in the midst of war, and if so, can this language, once spoken, ever become “unstuck?”