50bookchallenge #30/50: Jarhead, Anthony Swofford
I’m undecided on whether I’ll see the movie. I enjoyed Swofford’s memoirs so much that I’d hate to have them spoiled for me by Hollywood. Swofford is articulate and direct, a rare and good combination. He has an easy, relaxed writing style that invites the reader to relate even to experiences with little in common to his own.
The subject matter fascinated me. I have some shame for not having served, and reading about other people’s sacrifices holds some interest to me. Swofford is my age and I remember watching Desert Storm on CNN wondering if I would have to dodge a reinstated draft. I pretended to have some moral opposition to war but as I got older I saw that it was simple cowardice and that in fact my moral opposition would have been the best reason for me to have served. To paraphrase a bumper sticker, what if they had a war and no one but those without moral opposition to war showed up? If the nation must survive by immoral acts, then they must be committed by moral men who will serve as witness to the atrocities and whose actions will be tempered by their faith and morality. If it is true that we must kill for our country, we want those who will stop when the job is done. If I had a real moral grievance when I was 21, I should have signed up.
I didn’t, and so today I occasionally read the memoirs of those who did serve with a bit of gratitude for those who essentially paid for me.
All that aside, this was an entertaining and illuminating read. My only complaint is that Swofford occasionally skimped on depth where he provided context. I particularly enjoyed his brief history of the Scout/Snipers but wish he could have written more than a couple of pages. It seemed like a bit of a tease, but I suppose that it was appropriate not to go too far off topic just to provide context. It felt like he had more to say and held back, either because an editor was urging him to make a book that was easy to read or by authorly laziness. I can’t blame him for that; it’s best to skim over context and get to the stuff he’s an expert on: his own experience. Personally, I wanted a little more backstory to build it up.
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