Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Mr. Louis Zamperini's life is a testament to the resiliency of Man in the face of the horrors around us



Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption – Laura Hillenbrand (2010)
           
            While at dinner a few months ago with my wife and several other people from her work, the subject of books came up and I was asked what I had been reading.  I mentioned the book Beasts, Men, & Gods, by Ferdinand Ossendowski, and described its true-life tale of horror and hardship at the start of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia.  One of our dinner companions mentioned to me that I should read the book Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, which similarly dealt with one man’s experiences during war, this time World War II.  I made a note of it and proceeded to check out the book from the library I work for.
            Unbroken is the biography of Louis Zamperini.  It details his childhood as a son of Italians living in Torrance, CA, his rise to Track & Field stardom and success at the Olympic games, his entry into the military, the crash at sea of the B-24 bomber of which he was bombardier, his 40+ days spent along with two companions drifting at sea, his capture by Japanese forces, his two and half years spent in various POW camps, his release and return to civilian life, the tortures he endured as a result of his hardships, and his eventual redemption and joyful life, lasting all of 97 years.  That is a lot to digest, and it is even more amazing to read every detail. 

It is said that each of us leads multiple lives in a single lifetime.

            I had read many accounts of wartime, and of prisoners of war, but the endless pain, abuse, and degradation suffered by Allied POW’s under the hands of the Japanese army are innumerable, and nearly overwhelming.  I broke down several times reading this book, each time feeling ever so grateful to have been spared experiences such as the ones Mr. Zamperini and every single person having to try and live through war and it’s horrors has to endure.  To know that right now, around the world, there are countless hundreds of thousands of human beings suffering these very same terrors is almost too much to bear.  To know that for the past decade the USA has been using torture on prisoners from the “war on terrorism” not far removed from the inhuman derangement forced upon Mr. Zamperini, and excusing it for the sake of “national security” makes me fucking SICK. 

            I have close relatives who endured similar things during the Vietnam War.  No one who experiences war firsthand, whether as a combatant or as a civilian forced to survive amid battles and killing and occupation forces, comes out unscathed.  Mass trauma distorts humanity.  It makes those suffering it feel less than human, losing all dignity in the process.  I wish people would read and absorb stories like these before choosing to send our youngest and fittest out to wage war.  I cannot help but feel that if they did, they would not be so quick to treat military actions and deaths as if they were just business as usual.  I wish regular civilians would all read this book.  It may make them stop ignoring the actions of their leaders, since it is more convenient to think about something else, to be distracted by the day-to-day concerns of living, than to face the trauma being created in their name.  I highly recommend this book, and give thanks to the kind lady who pointed me in its direction.  I will carry Mr. Zamperini's life story with me.

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