Telling a story of brutality, fear, and suffering, Chris Hedges outlines the realities of war and how his perspective self-constructed from the grotesque – yet raw – images he observed within photographer Philip Griffith’s book, Agent Orange: Collateral Damage. In his article “Evidence of Things Not Seen”, Hedges argues that while many uphold the myth of war to be one “of glory, honor, patriotism and heroism”, war actually “reverberates for years afterward, spinning lives into a dark oblivion of pain and suffering”. Hedges continues throughout his article to reveal with various situations the brutalities of war, the repercussions of war, and ultimately dismissing the popular myths of war, myths that appear to simulate the very definition and ambiance of war.
Hedges draws the close relations he has to War World II to enlighten his readers of the catastrophic events that ensued and captured his childhood memories. Corroborating his central claim, Hedges explores the post-war effects on both his father and his uncle, effects that produce emotional ties to both himself and his readers. He begins the article discussing his father, who not only attempted to remove Hedges from any military involvement as a child, but also explicitly condemned the lie of war and the propaganda the military sold, “especially the lie that war is about glory and manhood and patriotism”. His father berated the recreations of wars and the celebrations of holidays such as Veteran’s Day, simply because war as he knew from his very eyes, contained no happiness: bodies were strewn everywhere, left for elements of nature to deteriorate or devour. Hedges furthers his argument through the narrative of the uncle, Maurice – a post-war alcoholic, attempting to cope with the impact of the war. In the end, Maurice, as Hedges explains, drinks himself to his grave and drowns in the sorrow the war left him in.
Beyond the emotional, Hedges relays factual devastation “Agent Orange”, a descriptive title for a task the US Military employed in 1962, created throughout the world. He writes how the herbicide, used for the purpose of destroying crops in Vietnam, left many “children who [now] suffer from spina bifida, mental retardation, blindness and tumors, children born years after the war but wounded as if the war never ended”. This hard evidence of the harmful effects the mission had, serves, at least to Hedges, to represent the “face of war”: the very definition and outlook war has on an individual and onto society.
Hedges continues his argument by exploring the ironies of American society and its predisposition towards recreating war through Hollywood and classic war video games. The irony he states is simple: movies and video games about war seem to hold some element of truth about war, but we must remember that movies and video games also represent dramatized, or rather fictitious stories. Hedges, when talking about video games, said “we taste a bit of war’s exhilaration but are safe, spared the pools of blood, the wailing of a dying child”. We often neglect, through the manipulations of media, the indescribable horror war is. Video games and movies are mere fiction and the war they seem to describe also merely resembles the myth Hedges desperately attempts to overturn.
War is not what we see through the media, what we idolize as patriotism and glory, but rather Hedges outlines the catastrophic effects war has, the brutality, the destruction was is. He exploits the emotional ties to his father and uncle to enlighten the reader of harmful post-war effects, demonstrating the lasting consequences of war. Hedges records the horrific incident of 1962 – Agent Orange – procuring factual evidence to display the horrors war caused to millions of families, even for generations to follow. He finally observes the irony of the media, and the false advertisement of war streamed on every movie and video game that claims to be about war. Chris Hedges authored “Evidence of Things Not Seen” in hope to destroy the common misconception – the myth – of war, and show the corruption, the plague, the dirt war is.