I Didn’t Recognize My Best Friend After the War


by: Isaac McShane

I saw a meme today that really tore me up. The message it sent was upsetting, along with the sad truth that our media is littered with such crap, but what upset me most was who posted it and how destitute he’s become. When you are friends with combat vets you learn to moderate your feed to reduce the propaganda and negative rhetoric without leaving your friends list in the single digits. It’s impossible to filter all of it and the news in social media is often heart breaking.

My childhood best friend is an Iraqi war veteran. He’s proud of having served his country, and should be, despite coming back a changed human and not for the better. During our adolescence we adventured back and forth across the country without a care in the world and got into plenty of trouble along the way. After he came back things went from bad to worse and we were regular weekend warriors at the county jail, mostly for petty crimes like bar fights or smoking a joint on the beach. We partied hard. I knew things wouldn’t get better unless I made serious life changes. By the time I left the salt life I didn’t have much to my name and moved far away to a place I had no contacts and started over from the beginning. It took me ten years to clean by name up and there’s nothing more liberating than earning your own freedom.

My old running buddy spent that decade developing a terrible drug problem, along with an accelerated case of pathological lying, kleptomania, unchecked aggression along with other developmental dispositions.  He had a kid, went back to prison, his dad died, then his wife ODed and died. It was almost as if he was attracted to burning bridges, a bi product of being institutionalized on both ends of the spectrum.   I love him, I love his family, but he’s volatile and that breaks my heart. In his world that is ok. He is calloused to breaking the hearts of those who love him.

As petty as it is, I will remain friends with him but again I have unfollowed him, in the social media sense as well as my interest . When I saw the post, my immediate reaction, like most of the time, is to bang out a witty or semi-profound explanation of why I so strongly disagree with the post. And like most of the time I chose against it. Such a rebuttal is feudal.  He’s full of hate, ignorance, accustomed to friction, close minded and stubborn as a mule. Of his kind there are many.

Maybe he’ll read this one day and understand it better than a “public confrontation”, but the purpose of this story is because I don’t think I can explain my position to him, I have to try to explain it to anyone who reads this.

From what I gather about the country’s current political opinions, I would guess that if two people read this, fifty percent of them would either misinterpret or resent my position.  Before I describe the meme I will disclose that the humanitarian in me wants to save every human life, but the predominant realist in me wants those who work hard to get what they earn before those who take handouts for granted.

The meme was a picture of a dirty, scared, blonde haired, blue eyed little girl. Need I say more? Yes, I need to say more. it read “Please share this if you think America’s own homeless children should be taken care of before foreign refugees”. That’s the meme. Before you draw your own conclusions, I’d like to say that I get the underlying message. Like dogs and cats, it’s inhumane to breed and deal (inbred) purebreds when there are so many rescue dogs and cats in our own neighbors who desperately need shelter. If you can’t help yourself you can’t help others. We don’t have our shit together and we have to take care of our kids, America’s future, before we can use those resources on anything external. I get that.

If I were to have banged out a hasty response upon my immediate reaction, it would have said something like this: If a foreign refugee has spent their entire life honestly working hard  to come to America to seek sanctuary from a volatile environment, they will be lucky to make it through the application process. If they are fortunate enough to navigate their way through the dense bureaucratic red tape beforetheir approval and make their way to America, following the refugee assimilation program for the next six to ten years to demonstrate their commitment to becoming a contributing member to our society, I think they are a greater asset and are therefore just as important as someone born into their citizenship and having been dealt a shitty hand of cards with parents dead and in prison.

I feel strongly about that because I’ve been in his shoes and I’ve learned to open myself to understand other people’s perspectives. I’ve been in the dark and I’ve seen the light. Additionally, I lost all my rights, spent years feeling inferior to my fellow citizens, worked hard for a long time to restore my rights. Many of us our fortunate to be born into such a great place; we are born into freedom. That is a foreign concept to most of the world. The only thing greater than freedom is the act of freeing, known as liberation.

The only thing I have left for him is tough love. I hope his daughter isn’t influenced by him. He will never see anything but red, white and blue soaked in blood. I wish I never saw that meme. I wish he never posted that meme. I wish he never went to war. I wish We never went to war. I wish we didn’t repeat so many mistakes from the time we colonized this county and conquered its previous inhabitants.  I wish we maintained the original values of strength in numbers, all are welcome. My family has been here for ten generations but we came here as Irish refugees.

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