So I'm reading "The New Kings of Nonfiction", an anthology of nonfiction pieces compiled by Ira Glass (yeah, yeah, I know I'm always talking about "This American Life") and I really enjoyed this piece by Lee Sandlin called "Losing the War".
I recently interviewed a World War II veteran about his experiences in the war, and found it hard to extract any sort of really gripping or poignant memories from him. Now, that could be just because I'm an out-of-practice reporter, but Plotkin was with me and he tried getting this man to elaborate a little bit more about his feelings and ... nothing.
I wish I had read Sandlin's piece before going into the interview, because I feel like I would've had a better understanding about where this veteran were coming from. In "Losing the War" Sandlin talks about how later generations will never be able to fully understand the terrible experience of World War II, and that the veterans who understand the experience, still, years later, are really just trying to forget. If you're at all interested in writing about the military or war (which I imagine many of us are because of Iraq and Afghanistan) I think this piece is worth checking out. If nothing else, it will give you a bit more insight into the minds' of our vets.
If you're not interested in writing about the military or about wartime, well read it anyway. These are trying times, as journalists we should all be seeking a better understanding for what moves men and nations. And how can you not be engaged with such solid writing? War ends at the moment peace permenantly wins out. Not when the articles of surrender are signed or the last shot is fired, but when the last shout of the sidewalk battle fades, when the next generation starts to wonder whether the whole thing ever really happened.