Thoughts That Come as I Read
Tribe: On Homegoing and Belonging
by Ed Chasteen
Reading Sebastain Junger’s 2016 book, Tribe: On Homegoing and Belonging, I remembered something from when I was a graduate student at the University of Texas in 1960 and assigned to interview survivors of a tornado. We discovered that in the aftermath of destruction, people came to the aid of others and felt a sense of community greater than before the disaster they shared.
This long ago memory surfaced when I read in Tribe that Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine, two of the first Americans, struggled to understand why some colonists abandoned their settlements to join Indian tribes and why some captives when rescued refused to leave their captors and why some rejoined their colony only to voluntarily return to the tribe.
While reading Tribe, my mind also went to that Amish farmer I met when on a bicycle ride in 2010 along a country road in rural Missouri. On a sawhorse-plywood table beneath a homemade awning in front of his house, he was, with his two young daughters, selling homemade jellies, jams and pastries. Do you ever go to the nearby town to sell your goods?” I asked. “We avoid your society as much as possible. He said. “Are we really two societies?” I asked. “We are.” He said..
So, too, Junger shows, do returning veterans from America’s recent wars return to a second society markedly different from the military, with its clear purpose, strict discipline and small group cohesion. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder may thus be seen as an indictment of this second society, almost totally removed from the values and lifestyles of the first. With this second society invested hardly at all in an all voluntary military, those returning are coming back to an alien society.
In concluding Tribe, Junger says, “If contemporary Ameica doesn’t develop ways to publicly confront the emotional consequences of war, those consequences will continue to burn a hole through the vets themselves.” (p. 122)