The Moral Logic of Survivor Guilt
Count Words — Reading Time
by James Stewart
Location: Memorial Park, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada
If there's one thing we have learned from returning war veterans — especially, those of the last decade — it's that the emotional reality of the soldier at home's often at odds with that of the civilian public which they left behind. And, while friends and families of returning service members may be experiencing gratefulness and/or relief, many of those they've welcomed home are likely struggling with other emotions.
High on that list of emotions, is guilt. Soldiers often carry this burden home — survivor guilt being, perhaps, the kind most familiar to us. In war, standing here rather than there can save your life, but cost a buddy his. It's fucking luck, but you feel responsible though. The guilt begins an endless loop of counterfactuals — thoughts that you could've and/or should've done otherwise — though, in fact, you did nothing wrong. The feelings are, of course, not restricted to the battle-field. But, given the magnitude of loss during war, they hang heavy there, and are pervasive. And, they raise the question of just how irrational those feelings are… If they aren't, of what is the basis of their reasonableness?