Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Aaron Sorkin on PTSD

I found this piece by Aaron Sorkin in the Huffington Post too late to post it on Remembrance Day or thereabouts, but it's still compulsive reading. Even now, PTSD is a misunderstood and neglected legacy of war.

I still haven't got round to posting a review of Gary Trudeau at the Edinburgh Book Festival, but he has had a number of Doonesbury characters who suffer from the after-effects of conflict (an amputated leg, PTSD and traumatic head injury). Not long after he started his first military storyline with a character in Desert Storm, he was invited out to Iraq by the US Army to see at first-hand what soldiers are up against and how they live. (As the Army put it, "If you're going to write about us you may as well do it properly".) Allied to his strip there is now a forum for serving soldiers and airmen to air their thoughts on anything and everything for the benefit of his readers. And Doonesbury itself is highly educational on both the support vets receive and the struggles they face.

In the UK we don't have a Department of Veterans' Affairs: the Army/Navy/RAF themselves deal with treatment and rehabilitation of ex-servicemen, assisted by the Royal British Legion and ABF (The Soldiers' Charity). Charities are all very well, but we shouldn't leave it up to poppy campaigns and voluntary giving. We should be funding treatment for these guys whose lives have been shattered in our names (whether or not we approved of their particular war) out of our taxes. How many artificial limbs could we provide for the cost of a Trident submarine (or a single one of its missiles)? How much counselling for men and women who dream every night of being pinned down in a firefight, or who relive being trapped in a crashed transport every time they hear loud noises?

That's why I have only applause for Tony Blair's decision to give the (presumably substantial) profits from his memoirs to the Royal British Legion. Maybe it would have been better to improve state funding for veterans' treatment' maybe it would have been smarter not to go to war at all. But a bucket of cash is worth an ocean of hindsight.

Anyway, read the article. I recently responded to a meme on Facebook where I had to list authors who had proved most influential in my life: I chose Sorkin as one, and if you read this piece you'll see why.


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