As George Kovach points out in his editor’s note, “the standard definition of war, one society imposing its will on another by militant force, fails the test for full disclosure.” Consequence Magazine adeptly fills the many gaps left open by such a clinical conception of what war really means to those who endure it, soldier and civilian alike. The issue offers a wide range of literature that both forces and invites the reader to confront some of mankind’s more unpleasant tendencies.
Last year, David Abrams published his knockout first novel: Fobbit. After a long career as an active-duty military journalist, Abrams has focused his literary attention on fiction. In the second-person story “Guns,” Abrams places the reader in the character of a young man who has had a complicated relationship with firearms. The story is split into three sections; in the first, “you” are young and disappoint your father with your hunting skills. In the second, you are in basic training and are just barely certified to use your M-16. In the third, you struggle during what may be the first time you fire your weapon at a real human being. Though the story is somewhat brief, Abrams offers a potent reminder that soldiers are more human than G.I. Joe.
On November 5, 2009, a lone gunman opened fire at Fort Hood, killing thirteen and wounding more than thirty. The sole suspect, U.S. Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan, used a Belgian-made FN Five-seven semi-automatic pistol to exorcise whatever demons possessed him. Lee Hancock’s “Interview with a Gun” is not a dry recounting of a horrific event. Hancock entwines the Hasan narrative with her own personal experience with firearms and a larger analysis of the excessive affection Americans seem to have for guns. After the Sandy Hook shooting, Hancock went to a sporting goods store, only to find a large crowd looking to stock up on guns and ammunition. “There is no escaping their fear,” she concludes. ”It will stalk us, just as surely as the grieving will ask after every mass shooting—why do we keep letting this happen? The grieving keep waiting for the obvious answer—something has got to change.”
Although wars are conflicts between nations, they are fought by individuals who need a leader to motivate them. Bruce Fleming makes the argument that that the United States military-service academies may not be worth the investment they receive from the government. Fleming, a professor of English at the U.S. Naval Academy, notes the excellence of officers produced by the far-cheaper ROTC programs that can be found at many colleges. Fleming offers advice to the military academies. In short, he believes they should stop infantilizing students, enroll older candidates and enforce rigorous academic standards.
Poet Martha Collins contributes two interesting poems that examine war from the perspective of non-combatants. “Hanoi Morning” and “Not Being There” are influenced by the Vietnam conflict. In fact, the poems are dated “1995, 2010” and “1993, 2012,” respectively. It is indeed difficult to forget that some Americans, “. . . gathered in public / places with posters and blankets / and dope and music,” while other people the same age were “. . . losing things: arms / and legs, innocence, sanity, girl- / friends, wives, buddies . . .” and more. Collins reminds us that contextualizing warfare is a long-term struggle for both warrior and pacifist.
The inclination to make war is a sad human inevitability. The need to create art and express thought through literature is equally powerful. This issue of Consequence Magazine gives voice to those who are often silenced by the shouts of the powerful. Kovach explains that “Guns” and “Interview with a Gun” represent “two degrees on a spinning moral compass, and examples of what we don’t talk about when we talk about war.” The rest of the work in this volume could be placed on that same compass.