In the article, “Evidence of Things Not Seen”, the author, Chris Hedges paints a very vivid illustration of the ravages of war, from the perspective of the victims. Hedges makes a point of denouncing the violent psychological and physical calamities of war driven by State governments and paid with the price of their people. Throughout the article, Hedge implores those who read to revisit the memory of war and to see it from the perspective of the victims whose plight is never glorified or harangued as proof of a war justified. By evoking emotional and gritty imagery, Hedges attempts to shed light on the underbelly of war, to highlight the human devastation that is all too real but never truly appreciated as an enduring and irreparable consequence, to be avoided and remembered in the future at all costs.
Hedges begins by referencing the impact of war on his own family, making a personal case for the denunciation of war. Hedges describes the aftermath on both his father and uncle’s lives, citing the deep disgust and resentment that his father now carried towards the United States’ military, weapons, memorabilia, anything that served to parade or celebrate the country’s militant history. He also describes his uncle’s less resilient attitude towards his experience of trauma and disillusionment with war, recounting the way he ultimately succumbed to the psychological demons that followed him well after the war was over. “‘He was an early opponent of the Vietnam War. During a Fourth of July parade in the farm town where I grew up he turned to me as the paunchy veterans walked past and said acidly, “Always remember, most of those guys were fixing the trucks in the rear.’” Hedges recounts the memory of his dad’s distaste for war after to relay to the reader a very personal account of its absurdity, its over-glorification, and of it’s ugly, disappointing truth.
Hedges also enlists the use of jarring metaphors to convey the intensity of his argument, that the reality of war, if it were not so obscured, would make the it much harder for people to accept, celebrate, or promote war at all. War is carefully packaged, the way tobacco or liquor companies package their own poisons. We taste a bit of war’s exhilaration but are safe, spared the pools of blood, the wailing of a dying child.” Hedges likens war to the packaging of tobacco, to highlight it propagandistic and consumerist nature, as well to illustrate the destructive, self-harm that is inherent in even supporting war. The image of the wailing, bloody child, one of countless victims of war, either maimed by bullets, shrapnel, and bombs, or diseased by way of chemical warfare, is used by Hedges to evoke a visceral and emotional reaction, a natural reaction that he feels is usually muted, tamed, or completely suppressed by careful, government-orchestrated fetishization of war. “War is made palatable. It is sanitized. We are allowed to taste war’s perverse thrill, but usually spared from seeing its consequences. The wounded and the dead are swiftly carted offstage. The maimed are carefully hidden in the wings while the band plays a majestic march.” With these words, he conjures up within the reader’s mind a callous and sickening portrayal of war and the government’s dehumanizing attempts to subdue our only natural disgust with it.
Through his own story and through the vivid figuration of war’s devastations, Hedges attempts to make the prospect, the history and memory of war personal, human, and strives to reveal whatever feelings of glory or pride that people are encouraged to associate with war for what they really are, manufactured, perverse, and devastatingly ignorant of war’s true, corruptive nature.