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The Things They Carried I would go to the war - I would kill and maybe die - because I was embarrassed not to. I survived, but it's not a happy ending. I was a coward. I went to the war.
"Certain blood was being shed for uncertain reasons. I saw no unity of purpose, no consensus on matters of philosophy or history or law. The very facts were shrouded in uncertainty... America was divided on these and a thousand other issues... The only certainty was moral confusion...when a nation goes to war it must have reasonable confidence in the justice and imperative of its cause. You can't fix your mistakes. Once people are dead, you can't make them undead." (p. 44).


"I feared the war, yes, but I also feared exile. I was afraid of walking away from my own life, my friends and my family, my whole history, everything that mattered to me. I feared losing the respect of my parents. I feared the law. I feared ridicule and censure." (p. 48).
"I'd be screaming at them, telling them how much I detested their blind, thoughtless, automatic acquiescence to it all, their simple-minded patriotism, their prideful ignorance, their love-it-or-leave-it platitudes, how they were sending me off to fight a war they didn't understand and didn't want to understand." (p. 48).

Viet Cong

"It's not just the embarrassment of tears. That's part of it, no doubt, but what embarrasses me much more, and always will, is the paralysis that took my heart. A moral freeze: I couldn't decide, I couldn't act, I couldn't comport myself with even a pretense of modest human dignity." (p. 59).
"All those eyes on me - the town, the whole universe - and I couldn't risk the embarrassment. It was as if there were an audience to my life...and in my head I could hear people screaming at me. Traitor! they yelled. Turncoat! Pussy! I felt my self blush. I couldn't tolerate it. I couldn't endure the mockery, or the disgrace, or the patriotic ridicule. I couldn't make myself be brave. It had nothing to do with morality. Embarrassment, that's all it was." (p. 61-62).

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