This music video by Five Finger Death Punch for their song “Wrong Side of Heaven” is one of the most powerful and effective I have ever come across.
What makes it so effective is that the scenes, and the statistics, are accurate. I have never served in the military in any capacity, yet it still was hard for me to watch. Friends of mine who are veterans have suffered from the same thing portrayed in many of the video’s brief vignettes. The desperate, bewildered faces bear too close a resemblance.
While it obviously portrays veterans as men who “served their country” and fought for freedom as per the tenets of American Exceptionalism, I can’t help but think it also acts as anti-war propaganda simultaneously.
This was not the intention of its creators, but by bringing to light the plight of returning vets, it makes it unmistakably clear what sort of fate awaits those who choose to enlist. If I were to try to dissuade a young, impressionable 19-year-old man from some rural town from signing up for the Marines, I would have him watch this. He can say whatever he wants about my ideology, but facts are a stubborn thing.
I highly doubt anyone told him about what happens after serving a tour or two. Having seen his friends shot, killed, mutilated, blown to bits by an IED, he will come back to find his world destroyed. It usually starts with finding out that his wife cheated on him while he was away (and with his best friend, though he doesn’t find that out until years later). Before he knows what has happened, she will divorce him, take half his possessions, and use his war experience against him in family court in order to obtain full child custody.
Chances are, he will have Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) and not know how to cope with going from a war zone where the smallest mistake will get you killed to an environment where the biggest choices he must make are utterly trivial in comparison.
And we wonder why they come back screwed up.
Scenes like this from the film “Hurt Locker” convey this deep anxiety veterans experience. The protagonist has gone from Iraq, where death is a constant threat hanging over him, to a quiet and mundane grocery store where the biggest task is to decide which cereal to buy.
These are not things they will have been prepared for. In fact, they were undoubtedly told the opposite when they signed the dotted line. So when they come back to find their lives destroyed by the very people they thought they were protecting, they realize the sacrifice was for nothing.
Now add on top of that the actual details of that sacrifice. As retired Marine Fred Reed describes it, these are not experiences you just recover from in a few days.
How do these vets get this way? Not by anything you want to hear about, anything that you will see on the nightly news. The RPG hits your tank, the cherry juice cooks off, and three of your buddies burn to death screaming because they couldn’t get out fast enough. You lose a leg and half your face to a mortar round. You just see things: A Chicom 122 cuts a cyclo driver in half and you watch him trying to crawl with his guts hanging out. He doesn’t crawl long. You get shot down over Hanoi and spend years being tortured. The military is a fun place. You have all sorts of unusual experiences.
It messes your head up. I promise.
Again, this is what makes the video unintentionally anti-war. What kid wants to sign up for this?
Libertarians are often accused of hating veterans or being anti-military. While the first is obviously false, the second accusation misses a fundamental aspect of libertarianism; we’re not against self-defense. We’re anti-war, and we have good reasons for this.
But if our rationales for why we oppose war on philosophical grounds aren’t sufficient to sway those still held captive to emotional reasoning, then videos like “Wrong Side of Heaven” offer plenty. If for no other reason, people should oppose war because it produces shattered lives like these.