Friday, November 13, 2009

CBC's 'Living Out Loud' enables Canadian Soldiers and Canadians at home to talk about Afghanistan War

CBC Radio's 'Out Front', produced by Neil Sandell, has been re-invented by CBC this fall as 'Living Out Loud' hosted by Robin Brown. In it's latest broadcast (11/13/09) Living Out Loud has taken the formula invented at Out Front - of allowing real people to tell their stories - to the fields of the war in Afghanistan, enabling Canadian solders to tell of their experiences in the war.

Wounded soldiers tell of a moment of suspension, when time stood still at the moment they lost parts of their bodies. Other soldiers talk about what they saw and experienced that made it impossible to cope with civilian life when they got home.

The Canadian Forces, it seems to me, who until now have been managing information flow very strictly in this war (re:Facebook Youtube censorship May 2007) must be allowing this airing as part of a comprehensive, enlightened healing process for soldiers, their families and ultimately for all of Canadian society.

I believe this enlightened approach can be summed up in this way: The only way to heal the wounded is to bring the society at home closer to the hellish experiences soldiers have had in-country. Other wise they have no one to talk to about their experiences. On the one hand the soldier knows by looking in your eyes that you can't possibly understand what he's feeling - you have no reference points in hell to draw from. On the other hand they don't want to wound You with stories your not/can't-be prepared to hear.

The Friday 13, 2009 Living out Loud broadcast the stories of four Canadian soldiers who were wounded in Afghanistan. A verbal image of a leg wound that made me wince. The queasy feeling I felt upon hearing "..the shrapnel passed from the back of my neck out the left front of my throat..." as told by one participant.

Then there's the more complex story of the shell shock type of post traumatic stress disorder; where flash-backs of terrifying moments are replayed in dreams and then in real time in an hallucinatory delusion, at home, leaving families dumbfounded at first and later going through a long psychological healing process.

The show also talked about the rage and loss of identity some soldiers experienced after witnessing a brutal rape of young children by members of the Afghan national army. As I'm listening to this I quickly construct a logical map in my head to try to dull the hatred I feel rising, of a broken culture, the result of 30 years of un-ending war.

So here we go down an enlightened path over the next little while; we are about to get a much clearer picture of what war in Afghanistan is like; and we haven't even begun to talk about the civilian casualties which outstrip all ISAF casualties put together.

Some will think this is liberal hay-making. Some will vilify the soldiers at first. In this historians opinion it is the beginning of a reconciliation with the truth of war, a beginning of an end of it.

The Canadian Forces are showing great courage and faith in this endeavour. The process will be a little of the hell at home that some Canadians have been experiencing at war for many years now. I suspect there was a lot of debate around this at the Department of Defence and the Prime Ministers Office.

The saddest part of all this is that, eight years into this unwinnable war we are just now beginning a real political discourse - over which time many more deaths will result - as we reach inevitable conclusions.

The only thing we're slightly likely to win in Afghanistan is Transparency in war.


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