I’m back with another rant for you guys. I understand the curiosity. I understand the concern. I completely understand everything that goes into having this question in your head. Trust me, I do. But I will never understand why you think it is ok to ask…
Did you kill anyone?
Why? The fact that you would even think to ask me this question means that you already have an opinion on the answer I’m (not) going to give you. What answer are you expecting? How are you going to feel if I confirm your suspicions? How are you going to feel if I give you the opposite answer? Now of course you’re going to say that it doesn’t matter, you might even believe it too… Until you actually hear the answer… Then what?
Say I did… Is your curiosity really worth pulling those memories (or lack thereof) out of whatever rabbit hole I may or may not have dropped them into and bringing them to the front of my mind? Should I elaborate? Are you going to join me in celebrating the time(s) that I took someone else’s life? Are you going to console me? Are you going to go and tell this to someone else who may or may not be more sensitive and/or judgmental than yourself?
Say I didn’t… Does that lessen the contribution that I made? Are you going to applaud my restraint or question my judgement? Are you going to compare me to someone who gave a different answer? Should we now go down the list of other war related experiences that you’ve heard about to gauge how dangerous it was for me over there? Do you think I’m just saying it to try to save face?
Say I’m not sure… Are you going to make me explain my lack of certainty? Are you going to imagine the event(s) as I answer? Are we going to turn this into a political discussion? Is there really anything that I could say to satisfy your need for a solid yes or no? Is this answer better than a yes or no?
Say I refuse to answer… Are you going to insist? Are you going to go assume one for me? Are you going to feel bad for asking? Should I feel bad now? Are the possible answers going to distract you from having a normal conversation now?
Do not, I repeat do not, ever ask this question. I don’t care how close you think you are to this person. Don’t ask. don’t care how many times you’ve interlocked genitals with this person. Don’t ask. Every single mentally stable(-ish) veteran is embarrassed by their answer. “Yes”, “no”, “I don’t know”, or “get out of my face”, it doesn’t matter which, it’s embarrassing to talk/think about. It’s embarrassing to know that someone else is thinking about it. Put yourself in our shoes:
You’re involved in a unique situation in which it is assumed that you had the opportunity to commit an unthinkable and polarizing act. The act is situationally dependant and not reflective of the person that you are when you’re not involved in that situation. How eager are you going to be to discuss your experiences with other people who have been in similar situations? How eager are you going to be to discuss your experiences with people who have not been in similar situations? What do you think motivates people to ask about your situation? What do you think they assume about your situation? How do you think they will respond when you confirm, deny their assumptions? What follow up questions will they ask? How do you feel about answering them? What effect do you think this knowledge will have on your relationship moving forward? If the truth is different than the one that you assume they want to hear which one are you going to tell them?
Until next time, have you ever…
P.S. During a break at work the other night I opened my phone and saw this. It took me a while to get myself together and respond in a way that (in the moment) felt right. Admittedly, this is nowhere close to being the first (or last) time that someone has asked me this question. From now on I’m more than likely going to send them this post when I get asked and leave it at that.