In my living room, my siblings and I sat on the couch with tired eyes, trying to stifle our yawns for the fifth time. My father was sitting in his favorite chair. Our Uncle Fro came over that day, going on about a time where their great-uncle went to France in WWI; A time that I honestly did not care for. They fought. Someone won and someone lost; that’s war. As our uncle went on, we became exasperated. My dad interrupts my uncle.
“That’s not how the story goes,” my dad spoke up.
“Oh really? Then how does it goes?” replied my uncle with an annoyed expression.
“You forgot to tell them about his tail.”
I raised my head in interest. I see from the side that he also got my siblings’ attention.
“What tail?” I asked curiously.
“The tail he got in France,” he replied, “listen and I’ll tell you.” My siblings and I sat up straight and focused our attention to our father as he told the story about his great-uncle’s tail. As focused as I was, I could notice my uncle shaking his head.
“Fables,” he muttered.
Many stories of war are heard out throughout life. What we receive can depend on how it’s told, and it can be told in many ways. But it’s never the straight truth. There’s always a different way of hearing the story. It’s always romanticized. War is often told without the horrific parts rather than straight truth to give it a meaning.
War stories are often changed and shaped into propaganda. In one video called The Army Experience Center by Roger Stahl, it showed a building controlled by the military who “merged the imaginary and actual worlds of military life” (April 2nd, 2015) through video games. It goes on to say that the young people that usually come by can play video games and seek staff if they’re interested in joining the army. When creating a video game, there must be a plot to it, and a plot is a story. With these video games, users are interacting with the war stories created through video games. Thus, some users see war through a lens created by the army, who wants them to see something other that what war really is.
With war, it’s hard for soldiers to connect with people who haven’t had the experience for themselves. Stories are ways for people to connect with each other, and war stories are no different. With the book, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, one chapter called Good Form tells of how he has made up many stories within the book. What was his reasoning? He goes on to say “I want you to feel what I felt. I want you to know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth” (171). When saying “story-truth” and “happening-truth,” he simply means a story versus the truth. In the book, he tells of the detailed story of how he killed a man versus how he watched the man get killed. When telling the event the way it is, it most of the time draws people away from the story, especially if it’s a story similar to others. To avoid it, there’s a twist to the truth that keeps people’s attention, just as O’Brien did in his book. He knew it would be hard to understand where he comes from when it comes to war, especially when you never experience it. It can be hard to tell all the details without hurting, as shown in the chapter entitled Courage To Speak. Instead, rather than explaining the truth to people, it’s made into stories that people can relate to in some way.
In this world, countless countries try to make themselves appealing and greater than what they really are. A way they do this is the way their history is told. In America, when learning of the history of wars we’ve been in, we focus on the wars that we’ve won. It shows the victories and achievements that were made during these wars. Never looking at the losses we’ve had. As Chris Ryder said in his article entitled (Partial) History: Why 'History Is Written By The Victors' Couldn't Be More True, “we tend to assume what we are reading is true.” (2016) It’s showing we tend to make their perspective of history the true history, and unable to connect when real history is presented. With this, countries continue to write their history in the perspective they saw it as. After all, history is written by the victors.
Why is it easier to accept fictional stories rather than truth? We translate war to stories that have morals and meaning because we can't deal with meaninglessness. If it doesn’t have meaning, then don’t know how to relate to it. However, is it ok to believe in a story of the truth rather than the real truth?
The Things They Carried: A Work Of Fiction. New York: Broadway Books, 1998. Print. O'Brien, Tim.
Ryder, Chris. (Partial) History: Why 'History Is Written By The Victors' Couldn't Be More True. Odyssey. Last modified May 3, 2016. https://www.theodyssesyonline.com/partial-history.
Stahl, Roger. The Army Experience Center. The Vision Machine. Last modified April 2, 2015. https://thevisionmachine.com/2015/04/the-army-experience-center/.