First I received a phone call from TMZ. I couldn’t believe it. What could the Wikipedia described, “celebrity news website,” want to know from Veterans For Peace? I was promptly informed that Gwyneth Paltrow compared internet attacks against her to war. Hearing for the first time, what I’ll loosely call news, I chuckled at the silliness of her comment and gave the “reporter” my initial reaction. I asked the reporter to be sure not to quote me in a way that makes it look like I am upset with Ms. Paltrow.
TMZ did quote me, calling me a representative of Veterans For Peace. That’s fine because they took my quote out of context. While they did not make it look like I was upset with her, they did not explain that I have some understanding of how she feels and why she made the comment.
Later I checked email and saw that a Yahoo reporter messaged me asking for my reaction. She provided a link, so I followed it and read more about Paltrow’s comment. Here is a more complete response explaining how I feel.
Let’s first talk about how what Ms. Paltrow said rings true. Like most people, she has never been to war and her life has never been in real danger, so she does not know what it is like to face war. But she does know what it is like to be afraid and to feel belittled. These are the emotions I’m sure she feels when being attacked on the internet. And yes, these are emotions one can feel, especially fear, when facing a situation of having to take human life to survive, or your own life is in danger. I understand her fears are real and should be acknowledged. Since Ms. Paltrow has not been in war and she has not faced war conditions like soldiers and victims of war, she has nothing to compare her personal dehumanizing experience to other than what she imagines war to be like. Her frame of reference is extremely skewed.
What is her reference? After waging war for more than a decade, our society has made war seem more and more like a game. We have depicted war as something much less dangerous and horrible than it really is. We speak of it as if it is acceptable and ordinary. We talk about the war on drugs, the war on women and the war on this and that. In some ways we must do this because we know that we bring real war to people around the world. Most of these people are like most of us, innocently trying to go about our lives, but they, unlike us, find themselves caught in the middle of our nation’s wars. These people face real dangers and the very real possibility of losing their lives to bullets, bombs, tanks and drones. They are dehumanized through torture, random searching of their homes and detention. The women and children of Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan and many other places around the world really know what war is like because they live these conditions every day. So in our imaginations many of us think we know what they are going through and we imagine ourselves going through something similar within the sanitized framework fed to us about war, thus we have comments like Ms. Paltrows.
As a combat veterans, I am not upset with Ms. Paltrow. I would love to open a dialogue between Ms. Paltrow and veterans and victims of war to help her and others understand the impact of war on both. I am however put off a bit by the flurry of attention she is receiving for what is really a foolish and uneducated comment, but harmless; but there is little real debate about our nation’s wars and our need to find a different way to solve conflicts. So we continue, unabated to place our children and children around the world in war. Every soldier and victim of war is someone’s child.
No, Ms. Paltrow has no idea what she is talking about. She unknowingly and naively belittled the experience of service members and victims of war. However, no one should have to face the horrors of war; yet, far too any people do, including innocent people who have done nothing wrong and have little if anything to say about why they are caught in the crossfire of U.S. war making. Let’s have a flurry of controversy and debate about that.