Twenty Things That Caught My Eye: American Orphans in the Wasteland, Man at War with God & More | National Review

The Three Percent Non-Solution | National Review

1. A brutal and important piece about tremendous pain: Andrew Doran: American Orphans in the Wasteland

“Do you remember that photograph from Raqqa,” Doc asks me at his house in Tucson, the same day we went up Tumamoc Hill. “The one with us and all the Kurds?” I tell him that I do. “You and I are the only ones alive from that picture.” He nods slowly, as if to drive home an implausible truth. “Everyone else is dead.” In the photo were Kevin and several Kurds, and a smiling Doc. A few weeks before we met in Arizona, another young American who fought with him in the SDF died of a drug overdose, by no means the first. Old comrades from the war against ISIS continue to die in the safety of America.

. . .

“Kevin told me it’d be hard coming home,” he says. “I had no idea.” The combination of PTSD and the traumatic brain injury he suffered in Syria causes seizures and insomnia. “I’d take the worst day there over an average day here.” He pinpoints a type of trauma described by many veterans: fearlessness in the heat of battle, but terror felt far from the front when enemies struck unexpectedly. “Your expectations make all the difference. When ISIS is a few hundred meters away, you expect the worst.”

. . .

The experience of terror combined with a sense of helplessness often traumatizes, setting the fight-flight-freeze response on a hair trigger in everyday life. “For me, I just function better in a war zone,” he says. “Maybe it’s because parts of my brain shut down that don’t otherwise function properly.” Neuroscience suggests this is precisely what happens.

Doc finds himself today in a third wasteland, not Mesopotamia or the American frontier but that of the traumatized mind . . .

Trauma is not a past event for people like Kevin and Doc, nor millions of others. It resides and recurs constantly in the mind, where terrifying sensations experienced during the traumatic event replay in an endless loop. Neuroscience suggests that the traumatized brain cannot contextualize the experience by placing it safely in the past. So such people remain trapped in a nightmare from which they cannot escape and perhaps do not wish to awaken, for only in high intensity situations or in the process of re-traumatization do they feel fully present. The traumatic past thus becomes timeless, a hellish present without end.

It is a bitter irony that Kevin and Doc sought in the violent wilderness of Mesopotamia a telos that would deliver them from before into the after, only to arrive in a psychological wasteland where time halted and pain was perpetual. The relived trauma is stripped of a sense of time or forward progression.

. . .

Doc knows that the wilderness he must survive, the human brain, has only begun to be mapped. It is traversed by other survivors, most of whom wander without awareness of the other sojourners. The more we learn, the better hope there is for people like Doc. He finds consolation in the other wanderers, especially military veterans. He notes that many of them also miss the intensity of a combat zone, particularly the sense of purpose that comes from fighting evil. The vets with whom he speaks, especially friends of Kevin’s, accept him as one of their own. Perhaps they understood that the war against ISIS was fought primarily not by soldiers of recognized states but by men like Kevin and Doc, soldiers of no nation. They also understand the struggle ahead will not be against evil on a battlefield but in the mind, against trauma, depression, and despair.

Read it all here.


3. Mary Eberstadt: Men Are at War with God

These days, many people who claim to be victims are indeed victims. But they are not victims of the oppressions and exclusions they’ve been taught to make central to their self-conceptions—the “gender ­binary,” “heteronormativity,” “structural racism.”

No: Like many others born after 1960, they are victims of a destructive maelstrom that rattled and shrank and sometimes ­destroyed their families. They are victims of the same revolution that undermined their churches and uprooted their communities. From that wreckage, identity politics sends up a howl for a world more ordered, protective, and connected than many now know. Some in the younger generation call themselves “socialists.” It’s easy to tell them that socialism has been discredited and won’t work, and to denounce universities for indoctrinating them. Both points are true, but irrelevant to the deeper reality illuminated, however inadvertently, by today’s young rebels. Socialists and identitarians alike sense that the world into which they were born is somehow inhuman. They want out.

They are not wrong in apprehending that something primordial has run amok—they are merely mistaken about its rightful name. This, too, is not altogether their fault. For decades, many Christians have avoided the subject of the sexual revolution and its fallout. ­Many have also made public enemies of those who defend natural law and biblical teaching. A growing chorus says, “Capitulate.” ­Accept that people are whoever they say they are. Celebrate the behaviors that Christianity declared off-limits for two thousand years. Put down the Bible and pick up the rainbow flag.

Believers exhausted by the culture wars convince themselves that surrender is “loving.” It is not. What if embracing people as they are, and only as they are, ignores their pain and fails to address that pain—and the deeper reasons for it? The torment out there is real. I recently wrote elsewhere about announcements by various celebrities who have re-defined themselves as “transgender” or “non-binary.” As I researched their stories and read their own words in interviews, something stunning emerged. Every individual on the list shared two common harms: divorced or absent parents, and violent childhood or adolescent abuse, in almost all ­cases sexual.

This should make us wonder. What if the dominant storyline about gender self-invention is all wrong? What if the cheerleading drowns out other cries? What if childhood and adolescent trauma, combined with the radical uncertainties of family and communal life, contributes to today’s gender confusion and gender migration? If that is so, then embracing transgenderism is at best iatrogenic, and at worst betrays cold-blooded ­indifference.

4. Christopher Caldwell: Is the West Becoming Pagan Again?

So if another civilization comes to replace Christianity, it will not be a mere negation, such as atheism or nihilism. It will be a rival civilization with its own logic — or at least its own style of moralizing. It may resemble the present-day iconoclasm that French commentators refer to as le woke. (The term means basically what it does in English, except that French people see wokeness as a system imported wholesale from American universities and thus itself almost a religious doctrine.)

5. Leaked Biden Plan Would House Violent Men In Women’s Prison Cells

6. Karl Rove on today’s anniversary:

To move beyond Jan. 6, 2021, we must put country ahead of party. For Democrats, that means resisting their leadership’s petty habit of aggravating partisan fault lines by indiscriminately condemning all who came to Washington that day.

We Republicans have a heavier burden. I’ve been a Republican my entire life, and believe in what the Republican Party, at its best, has represented for decades. There can be no soft-pedaling what happened and no absolution for those who planned, encouraged and aided the attempt to overthrow our democracy. Love of country demands nothing less. That’s true patriotism.


8. Naomi Schaefer Riley: Is Our Addiction to Pleasure Destroying Us?

How have we lost sight of the importance of feeling the full range of human emotions, of understanding that boredom and sadness and anger are all part of life? For one thing we have stopped training our children to handle them. Parents rush to fix every problem, to solve every complaint, to always entertain are training kids to jump from one pleasurable experience to another. And by the time they are adults they are only used to mountains, not valleys.

9. George Will on “The brutal racial politics of the Indian Child Welfare Act”

10. Woman encouraged to abandon daughter with Down syndrome at the hospital

11. Henry Olsen: Teachers unions are in the wrong on covid-19. Democrats must force them back to work.



14. Ross Douthat on Joan Didion:

Didion’s best work, even when it wasn’t her last word, denied the reader precisely that kind of clean dichotomy. The dream alone can be dangerous; it can curdle into ideology and fantasy. But the waking world isn’t all there is either, and you can’t describe reality fully unless you stay partway inside the dreams, the myths, the memories that don’t belong to you alone.


16. Lawrence Brooks, oldest U.S. veteran of WWII, dies at 112


18. Drivers were stuck on I-95 when one saw a bakery truck. Soon, stranded motorists were breaking bread together.

19. Fr. Roger Landry: Growing in Devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus


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About the Author

Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.