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Veterans in Boxes

Forest Whitaker’s role in Lee Daniel’s The Butler was circle perfect.  It reminded me of his performance in Jason’s Lyric where he played Maddog, a Vietnam veteran who abuses his wife.  It was not a marquee role, but important none the less.

He interpreted it so well, I ended up hating him.  I never thought about the plight of veterans in that dark movie theatre.  They are flown or bussed to theatres of war to defend their countries’ ideals: borders, democracy, communism, capitalism or religion.
Some come back with all their limbs intact.  Others are maimed physically and psychologically like Maddog.  Worse still, others come back in boxes covered with the American flag, like Randy Barrington, the young soldier in the film The Painting.

Only veterans know what they went through.  It is only them who know whether the wars they fought were just or not, but what must be nerve-wrecking is being in a box.
Society puts them in the veterans’ box.  Families caution each other about family members that survived conflict.  Do this or don’t do that with your father.  He was in a war.

Families might be reluctant to ask them questions because they think it might revive painful memories.  They might also be concerned about more immediate things.  When will he/she get a job?
Most countries have all kinds of counselling for veterans to ease them back into peace time, but it doesn’t help if the public at large has confines them in boxes.  ‘All they know is how to handle a gun.  I cannot use them in my company.’

It must be extremely difficult for veterans to realise that society in general is clueless about why they went into combat.  Ordinary people are not privy to the wheeling and dealing that is called Foreign Policy.  They are only called when it’s time to be patriotic.

Veterans in boxes are not a good investment.  They should be out in the open with the millions they went to protect with their lives.  They should not be boxed in, fighting for air.  They went through that in trenches and torture chambers.
By: Nonqaba waka Msimang.


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