Evidence of Things Not Seen
Author Chris Hedges makes the claim that the only way to understand war is to see it from the perspective of the victims, though that is inherently impossible because the victims are hidden by society. The title, Evidence of Things Not Seen, immediately points the reader in the direction of the argument, and in the second paragraph he tells the story of watching a parade of “paunchy veterans” with his father who turns to him and says, “Always remember, most of those guys were fixing the trucks in the rear.” Immediately following the title, which explains that the real evidence will not be seen, there is this story about a parade, which is essentially the most public and “seen” demonstration that there can be. The reader now has been told that the evidence will not be seen, and when presented with apparent evidence to refute the claim, the father says that “most” of them were fixing trucks, thus maintaining the claim that the true nature of war can only be seen from the perspective of the victims, but appeasing the opposing side by demonstrating that exceptions do exist.
The author gives a story about his Uncle Maurice being wounded and turning into an alcoholic unable to hold a steady job. The emotions conjured up by a story of helplessly watching a family member drink themself to death and ruin the lives of everyone around them is a pathos move by the author, gaining sympathy for his claim about the horrors of war. He uses his uncle as evidence of a country unwilling to acknowledge the effects of war. Then going on to make many statements of “we.” That “we turn our backs” because “the message they bear from war is too painful for us to hear.” This ethos move of grouping everyone into a “we” and an “us” is more evidence of his claim that its impossible for us to view the true nature of war because people like his uncle are hidden away from society, and instead, the men that were “fixing the trucks in the rear,” that are exceptions to war, are the ones paraded around for “us” to support.
For more evidence of war’s unseen effects Hedges cites statistics of birth defects in areas sprayed with Agent Orange and other exposed to it. The effects of this herbicide are “dead infants with savage deformities.” The evidence of where these deformities occurred is rooted in fact and statistics, a logos move, but the image conjured of deformed and dead children is also a pathos move. Long after the war is over, innocent children are being affected, families are being ruined, and all of this is overlooked by “us.”
One of the reasons society fails to denounce war is because of the way it is portrayed in film. Making films to denounce war that include scenes of glory and battle is like, as Hedges writes, “trying to produce movies to denounce pornography and showing erotic love scenes.” The warrant Hedges is using is the desire for glory and masculinity that permeates all aspects of young men’s lives. When watching one of these movies, instead of being horrified by the graphic scenes they are inspired to be courageous and honorable and “manly.” He also uses the metaphor of packaging up war like tobacco and alcohol companies package up their own poison into a socially acceptable form. Tobacco and alcohol are both socially accepted products, but when taken for what they really are they are poisons that destroy your body. Since all that society gets to see are these “packages” of films, and the men in parades, the evidence would seem to be overwhelmingly in opposition of the claim that war is in fact more horrific than most anyone could imagine.
This is in fact one of the strongest pieces to the author’s argument. To refute this claim is actually to support it. The evidence is unseen by society, so if one is to refute the claim on the basis of seeing the parade and watching the films, it only strengthens the authors point that society shuns those that are truly affected by the horrors of war. Unless you have seen the evidence that is hidden away from society, you are in no position to make an argument. The refutation in this paper does not exist, because to be in opposition implies that you have not viewed war from the perspective of the victims, which is the entire case of the argument. There is no way then to refute the claim because to do so only invalidates your argument, as you are ignorant to the evidence.