If this case does not call for mitigation, then mitigation has no meaning
April 10, 2017 2:58 PM   Subscribe

The 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing winner, C.J. Chiver's "The Fighter" charts the process of turning a young man into a Marine and the results of his combat in Afghanistan on his return home. While this is a story that has been seen repeatedly, Chiver shows that his "descent into violence reflected neither the actions of a simple criminal nor a stereotypical case of PTSD." (SLNYT, quote is from Pulitzer Citation)
posted by Hactar (9 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
I remember that story vividly; it deserves the Pulitzer.
posted by languagehat at 3:04 PM on April 10

I remember the crime -- it got a lot of local press, and two friends of mine lived right down the block from where it happened. I had no idea it became a big NYT story, nor of Siatta's background. I just registered it as "drunk student home invasion" which happens with alarming frequency near the college, and didn't think much more about it beyond my friends' hair-raising story of the whole event. So it's really interesting for me to read the full context.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:14 PM on April 10

This reminds me of the recent post on mass incarceration and prosecutors. The terrifying whimsy of the state. The luck of being a good enough story for the NYT.

I find it very sad that young people would not know how bad going to war for the US can be. I don't know if it is just the luck of circumstance, being born at the right time or right place or what you read but I never could join the service, despite wanting to. My template for war is Vietnam, Saigon fell when I was 12, I have never been able to imagine a US conflict that was not lies all the way down. Participating would have made me feel like a criminal con artist. I could not do naive, where I grew up credulity was a sin. I could not understand how our culture buffed up its wounds, "An Officer and a Gentleman" left me gobsmacked, and then Reagan. Even Magnum went all cold war and righteous bombast. It would be so good to believe but I just can't and this piece of writing only confirms this. But I could have stopped at "In Pharaohs Army" or "War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning," or pretty much anything truthful and non-valorizing. I remember watching "The Stuntman" and when Peter O'Toole laments that "I know a man who made an anti-war movie... a good one. When it was shown in his home town, army enlistment went up six hundred percent." At 17 this seemed entirely plausible and today it still does.
posted by Pembquist at 8:51 PM on April 10 [5 favorites]

The terrifying whimsy of the state.

And with no one as Court Watchers - who's ever gonna know?

The lack of observation manifests itself in many ways. Statements that BLM make about an inability to obtain Justice. Various people in 'political hearings' perjuring themselves. The process of the DA being the block between the citizen and the Grand Jury**

My last Court watching was about someone who SELF REPRESENTED vs charges of battery 'and because the State employed man who makes almost 6 figures at his job recanted his testimony about being the victim of battery'* the self represented accused was actually acquitted by the Jury. (Damn. Haven't seen THAT before. But I don't have numbers yet on the conviction rates at actual trial to see if you have a better shot without a Lawyer.) Now the Judge in the hearing I was observing claimed this self represented accused gent did a great job representing himself, yet the transcript bit I read had this same Judge every page or page and 1/2 admonishing the self representing defendant to behave himself. So after this defendants trial he tried to press criminal charges VS the State employee. 7 Misdemeanors. The DA's office blocked him. He then tried a John Doe and the Chief Judge + others sat on the paperwork for months - so that the statue of limitations ran out on the 7 misdemeanors. I like to think of this as an example of obstruction of justice. Oh and the actual casefile? I can't see it. I have to "write a note" to the Chief Judge asking permission. Now I HAVE some of the casefile*** but access being denied formal access to the record does help the framing of "Obstruction of Justice" eh?

* These statements are what I was told VS what I can find in the record. I'm not gonna pay for a FULL transcript - ya'll nuts?

** 1946. The feds changed the rules for access to the Grand Jury. Why? I have no proof but imagine integrated military transport ships where the hoi polloi were exposed to how the system was supposed to work for 'em and then returning Stateside. Then imagine they tied to take the local officials to a Federal Grand Jury. Of COURSE the rules got changed.

*** Social engineering is fun. Besides getting the lawyer to hand me a copy of the complaint in the above watching case once I told him the Chief Judge wanted a note asking permission I've gotten someone to admit in writing that yes, they were trying to bribe a crime victim. And not one letter - 2 of 'em - the second one clarifying the admission.
posted by rough ashlar at 5:03 AM on April 11

Chivers has also written a book about the history of the AK 47 and its impact on the world that I found surprisingly compulsive,
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:48 AM on April 11

> Peter O'Toole laments that "I know a man who made an anti-war movie... a good one. When it was shown in his home town, army enlistment went up six hundred percent."

In a November 11, 1973, Chicago Tribune interview with Gene Siskel, Francois Truffaut said: "I find that violence is very ambiguous in movies. For example, some films claim to be antiwar, but I don't think I've really seen an antiwar film. Every film about war ends up being pro-war."
posted by languagehat at 8:24 AM on April 11 [5 favorites]

I've had enough experience with PTSD in both my working and personal life to say with confidence that the only stereotypical thing about any PTSD story is that quite commonly the person suffering from it doesn't understand to what extent it is affecting them or their lives. So much so I've seen people leave a wake of destruction to personal relationships and continue to blame everything or everyone else while being perfectly happy to continue on with zero self-insight. It's unfortunate that something like this needs to happen to someone before that person does something about it.
posted by P.o.B. at 10:32 AM on April 11 [3 favorites]

quite commonly the person suffering from it doesn't understand to what extent it is affecting them or their lives


I'll add, quite commonly other people don't understand it either.

I can’t recall how many times in reference to this story I heard that “PTSD is no excuse” and “it’s his fault he made bad choices” and “Veterans are great but there shouldn’t be a double standard for people who served” blah blah blah. My favorite “I don’t want him in my neighborhood.”

“The counseling he had attended at the V.A. with a therapist who knew him was replaced by a once-a-month, 15-minute mental-health checkup.”

Because y’know, support our veterans.

"Every film about war ends up being pro-war."

Swofford's book 'Jarhead' has an interesting take on that phenomenon.

I think if more war movies were like this, there would be less of a "do not do this cool thing" happening.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:43 PM on April 11 [3 favorites]

"As long as the blood of women is not revered, the blood of warfare will be glorified."
posted by Mesaverdian at 7:05 PM on April 11 [1 favorite]

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