Season 10:1 The Pilot: Looking for Hope?

I’ve been a fan of NuWho for the past three or four years. As a result, I know that crying is part of being a fan of the show. As someone who hates crying or showing weakness of any kind-Doctor Who provides one of the few safe spaces where I feel as if it is ok to cry. (This is one reason why I rarely watch Doctor Who with other people). I’ve gotten to the point where I can somewhat prepare myself for the times when I am pretty sure I will cry: when the Doctor regenerates, when a companion leaves, and perhaps during the last episode or so of the season/series. Of course, whether an episode causes one to cry or not is not just about the intention or skill of the writer. Just as important are the life circumstances of the viewer.

Perhaps this is just me, and perhaps I should know better, but I typically don’t expect the first episode of a new season to be a tear jerker. Especially when the new season involves the introduction of a new company. Typically the episode focuses on the wonder and excitement of traveling on the TARDIS and being exposed to different time periods and planets. Of course this episode had plenty of that but right off the bat Bill is exposed to the heartbreak, loss, and loneliness that one experiences and/or is exposed to when traveling with the Doctor. And the viewer, well at least me, is confronted with reminders about those experiences in the real world. Only, there isn’t a Doctor to guide me through those difficult moments as a result, I found that in my daily life, I feel more like Heather, than I do Bill.

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I travel a lot-not to different planets (yet!) but to different countries, states, cities. I travel mainly for internships and for school. Now don’t get me wrong, I love traveling and I am glad I have the opportunity to go to different places. But if the visit lasts more than a week, I find myself getting restless.  This restlessness rarely has to do with the city itself, or with the people around me, but it has to do with me and after years of going through the same cycle every time I go somewhere new for an extended period of time I’ve had to be honest with myself: I’m profoundly unhappy and I hate life. Or more specifically, I hate my life. I hate who I am and all the characteristics, thoughts, weaknesses, strengths that make me me. I hate how self-absorbed I am(as I wrote a blog post that is basically all about me), I hate how I look, I hate how I can never seem to make myself happy. I travel a lot because I enjoy traveling but also because for a while at least-I am able to escape myself by immersing myself in a new location. But soon enough, I have to deal with myself. I mean, you can’t exactly escape who you are.

BILL: You okay? 
HEATHER: Yeah, I’m fine.
BILL: Sorry, can I ask? What’s that in your eye?
HEATHER: It’s just a defect in the iris.
BILL: Looks like a star. 
HEATHER: Well, it’s a defect.
BILL: At least it’s a defect that looks like a star. 
HEATHER: I’m getting it fixed.

Everything about me feels like a defect that needs to be dealt with before I can be happy or until I can love myself or be loved by other people. All I do is want to run away, in the hopes that if I run far enough or often enough that somehow I can magically learn to like myself. But I’m not an idiot. I know that’s not how life works.

In this episode, we don’t really get to learn much about Heather-her background, her past, or exactly why she wants to so desperately leave that she is in a sense willing to die-(at the very least she gives up her humanity). All we know is her desperate loneliness and her brief connection with Bill. And although the episode doesn’t touch on this except for briefly, the alien lifeform, whatever it was, was also desperately lonely.

DOCTOR: Maybe it saw something it needed. What was she like, your friend? What did she want? What did she need?
HEATHER [memory]: Everywhere I go, I just want to leave.
BILL: I think she wanted to leave.
DOCTOR: You see? 
NARDOLE: The puddle found a passenger.
DOCTOR: A left-behind droplet of a liquid spaceship. A single tear drop, alone in a strange world. Then, one day, it finds someone who wants to fly away. Not just a passenger. More than a passenger, it found a pilot, so it ate her.

I don’t know what the super intelligence alien space oil is supposed to signify. And the great thing about TV shows is that sometimes the character(s) can signify different things to different people, at different time points. And sometimes what we need the character(s) to signify might not necessarily make sense, especially to other people. But call me morbid, call me morose but for me the intelligent space oil, represents death. At the very least, it represents a form of death, since Heather gives up her humanity for what? For adventure? For thrills? To see the universe” Or for something more? At what point, does life become unbearable? At what point is the potential of what life holds-a new crush, a new love, not enough? At what point does the so called, “it gets better”-whatever that “it” is that everyone consistently talks about, that I’ve been constantly told about, come too late, if at all?

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The reason, at least for me, that Heather and Bill’s story, as of right now (who knows what will happen in future episodes. It is Moffat after all) is so sad is because it was so short. Heather, was already gone or on her way to leaving at least, when they first meet. Whatever possibilities that could have been were shut down and destroyed right from the beginning. Moffat, of course does leave room for hope.

DOCTOR: It’s a big universe, but maybe one day we’ll find her.

And knowing how Doctor Who works, they could very well one day find her. But in the real world…is hope something that tangibly exists or is it something we tell ourselves to just get through life? And what of those who no longer have hope? Heather, lost her hope-at least her hope that in her human life form that things would get better and that things could be different. Unfortunately, we don’t-(I mean I certainly don’t, but perhaps there are some space aliens amongst my readership?)  have the option to basically be consumed by intelligent space oil (though that might be a good thing?) and travel the universe. But yet, by closing off hope, we also close ourselves off to very real possibilities. In “The Pilot,” Heather was basically doomed from the moment we saw her. Yet, there seems to exist the possibility that she is continuing to live albeit in a different form. Hope still finds a way to exist, though in a different form then what is expected.  In the real world, it is often said that hope is only truly gone at the moment of death (and of course, for those who believe in an afterlife, or in a resurrection that occurs after death, hope can continue. Though even then, the hope takes on a different form. In death the hope of continuing a normal life no longer exists. Obviously for the person who died, but also for the people left behind).

So I guess, at the end of this episode, I’m ultimately left wondering what is hope? What does it look like? Can I even recognize it? What does it entail? Do I still have it? Do I even want it?

The Return of Doctor Mysterio

To be honest, the 2016 Christmas episode, The Return of Doctor Mysterio isn’t the most theologically, philosophically, or politically deep episode. Understandable, since it aired on a Christmas day, a day that many want to be light hearted and fun though the reality is much more complicated. Part of the delay in writing about the episode has been because I had no idea what to say-especially in light of what is going on in the United States and internationally. Those who have been following my blog know that I am an advocate for social justice and I have been critical of unjust policies put forth by both the Republican and Democrat parties. Injustice has no bipartisan affiliation.  I believe that both parties exist to serve their own interests and often those interests come at the expense of the marginalized and the oppressed. But within the past week, Trump has demonstrated that unlike past presidents of both political persuasions that he is determined to push through unjust policies in a speedy and unprecedented manner. All presidents have used executive powers, for better or for worse, but Trump has demonstrated that he will use his powers to discriminate against undocumented immigrants, refugees, and green card holders.

President Barak Obama deported more undocumented immigrants, then any other president before him, and Trump is intent on beating Obama’s record. The War on Terror, since it’s initiation by George Bush has had a disproportionate effect on Muslims, or those who are perceived to be Muslims, and Trump is intent on escalating the War on Terror and has no qualms about discriminating against all Muslims. Past presidents, including Bush and Obama have at least given lip service to the notion that the US is not at war with Islam per say but with jihadist terrorism. For Trump, no such distinction exists. One week into his presidency, and Trump is determined to break the mold, and to do so in a negative way. The last few years have already been difficult for those who fleeing Bush’s and Obama’s bombs, for those oppressed not only by jihadists terrorist groups but by western allies, for black, brown, and native bodies who are not only killed by law enforcement officials but also find that their deaths and their lives are discarded and forgotten. The next four years promise to be worse.

For some of us, this is a continuation and escalation of the work we have been doing. For others, we might feel like Grant. We were busy going about our lives, before an unexpected disruption caused our lives to change. In Grant’s he was sick young child  eagerly awaiting Christmas before the Doctor shows up. For some of us we were going to work, going to school, taking care of kids, hanging out with friends.  And then we realized, that the status quo was no longer an option. Grant’s superpowers meant that he could no longer go back to being a normal kid, for some of us, particularly in the United States’ Trump’s election and more so his executive orders, has meant that we can no longer look the other way towards injustice. Under Obama, we could pretend that things weren’t so bad, because it wasn’t effecting us. It was just effecting people over there-in Yemen, Iraq, Syria. But Trump, for better or worse is forcing us out of our complacency.  And while being forced out of complacency is a good thing, it is very easy to get overwhelmed. Especially for those of us suffering with injustice. In order to be effective in the next few years, we are going to have to take care of ourselves and others. And the Doctor provides some helpful tips on how to do so.

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  • Recognize when you are being stretched too thin. Grant was busy trying to save people, keep a job, and work on his personal life. In the episode it was humorous to watch Grant run back and forth between his superhero alter ego and his regular normal self. His powers and his desire to help others was consuming his life. In real life, activism presents similar dangers. And the stakes are incredibly high. People’s lives are on the line-hundreds of thousands of people are expected to die if the Affordable Health Care Act is repealed and not replaced with a comprehensive alternative, thousands of people fleeing war torn countries in the Middle east, which in many cases are being bombed by the US are being denied refuge. People who have risked their lives to help the US army, and are thus in mortal danger are being abandoned. Black, brown, and native lives continue to be slaughtered at the hands of police and Trump’s response seems to be to further militarize and empower the police. These are all significant issues and some impact us or our loved ones. But the reality is, if we don’t take care of our bodies, our minds, an dour souls, we will be useless.

DOCTOR:. When everyone thinks that the Earth is being attacked from space, what then?
NARDOLE: Mass panic…

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  • Don’t give into fear mongering. For the past 15 years or so, the War on Terror has basically been a long comprehensive lesson on fear mongering. Trump’s policies on deporting millions of undocumented immigrants from Mexico and blocking refugees and asylum seekers from predominately Muslim majority countries did not arise out of thin air. His policies are viable precisely because he is feeding on the fear that many Americans (and let’s be real western countries in general) have about the “other.” Undocumented Mexicans are portrayed as criminals who are bumming their way in the United States. They aren’t husbands, wives, and children, fleeing a country wrecked by drug wars-drug wars that the US helps fuel by both its demand for drugs and the “war on drugs.” Muslims, Arabs, and people who are perceived to be Muslim or Arabs, are portrayed as terrorists and westerners as their hapless victims. Although the majority of people killed by terrorists are Muslim and from Muslim majority countries. And even though, scant attention is paid to the ways in which American foreign policy has killed hundreds of thousands of civilians.

DOCTOR: New York isn’t a capital city. It’s a shop window. When the world is in danger, come hide with us. Harmony Shoal will open its doors to the terrified leaders of the world. 
SIM [on monitor]: And they will come running. 
DOCTOR: A few hours later, every politician and commander-in-chief will have a zip in their head. An alien sitting inside their skull. In one day of terror, the executive authority of Planet Earth will pass to Harmony Shoal.

  • Fight against hatred. In The Return of Doctor Mysterio the Doctor and Grant are fighting against aliens that are attempting to take control of the bodies of influential governmental leaders. In the real world, it isn’t aliens that we need to be concerned about but hate, greed, racism, combined with massive amounts of political power. Trump’s policies, ISIS’ reign of terror, Hitler’s “final solution,” and numerous other examples of genocide, political oppression and marginalization, are often rationalized on the basis of hatred disguised in the language of national security. Horrific events, whether the end of World War I and the decimation of Germany, 9/11, more recent terrorist attacks such as the Paris attacks in 2016, the Orlando night club shooting, etc  or coups such as what occurred in Turkey in 2016, are often used by those in power to create policies that target the reigning regime’s enemies, real or perceived. For Hitler, his enemies were the Jews, the mentally or physically disabled, the LGBT community, etc. For groups like ISIS, anyone who disagrees with their narrow interpretation of Islam are enemies to be vanquished. For those orchestrating the War on Terror, it is Islam and refugees who pose a threat. For Erdoğan in Turkey it is anyone who dares stand up to his increasingly authoritarian policies.

GRANT: Are you sure he’s going to be all right? 
NARDOLE: Hmm. He’s the Doctor. He’s very brave and he’s very silly and I think, for a time, he’s going to be very sad. But I promise, in the end, he’ll be all right. I’ll make sure of it.

  • Everything will be all right-but we need to be there for one another. I’m not going to sugar coat it, life, for many people was already hard and it will only get harder. If the past week is any indication, dark days, and darker nights are ahead of us. But there are thousands of people in the United States, and millions outside of it, who have decided that enough is enough. The world has enough hate, the world has enough discrimination, the world has enough violence, and now it is time to step up and put a stop to it.  They have joined hands with those who have spent years and decades advocating for a better world. Whether you have been advocating for justice for years or you have recently decided to become an activist, recognize that you are not alone. The recognition that we are part of something larger is going to be essential for our survival, especially for those of us who struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts. It is essential that we help one another and encourage one another, especially in the face of inevitable setbacks and resistance. We will be ok. We can do this. We will do this. We are brave.

Sleep No More: The Acceptance of State Sponsored Terrorism

PRESENTER: May the Gods look favourably upon us all. Friends. We live in a time of unparalleled prosperity. A golden age of peace, harmony and industry. But every shift must come to an end. Every working day must stop. Of course, we can take stimulants to make that deadline, to keep us propped up through that important meeting. But always, always, sleep claims us in the end. Until now The Morpheus machine concentrates the whole nocturnal experience into one five-minute burst. Now, you can go a whole month without sleep. 

…..
PRESENTER: All the chemical benefits of rest, but freeing up the nights to continue working, working, working. To get the edge on your competitor. To turn that extra profit.
CLARA: That’s insane. That’s horrible!
CHOPRA: Finally, someone who sees it for what it is.
PRESENTER: Leave the Rip Van Winkles behind and become one of a new generation of Wide-Awakes! The future is here. The future is now. Let yourself slip into the arms of Morpheus! 

Advances in technology often go hand in hand with government oppression and exploitation. No, I am not one of those people that condemns every new technological advance as evil and it is important to note that many technological advances and breakthroughs, especially in medicine, have had a positive impact on numerous people. (Though for those that that market and sell such technology, it is often in their best interest to narrow who can receive it based on income.) Other advances, such as social media, encryption, etc has helped those in authoritarian countries find way to bypass government censorship. Yet at the same time advances in technology has provided governments with the ability to spy and monitor millions of people within their own country, but also outside of it. Most technology, with the exception of military weapons, are morally neutral. What determines whether they are “good” or “bad” is the motivation behind their creation and the consequences of their use.

In Sleep No More, the Morpheus pod has two purposes: the first purpose, which is tied with how it is marketed, is to reduce the need for sleep and enable workers to use their extra hours to gain a completive edge over their co-workers or increase their profits. In this case, capitalism and greed are the motivating force for why many people and companies buy and use it. Of course, the pod is marketed as helping to continue the current, “golden age of peace, harmony and industry,” which in any modern, industrialized country is tied to the god of capitalism. May the gods of free market capitalism look favorably upon us indeed.

The other more sinister motive is tied to patient zero and thee creation of what Clara calls. “the Sandmen.”

RASSMUSSEN: I’ve been working on Morpheus for a very long time, Doctor.  I had to start somewhere. Morpheus’s first client. Patient Zero. The ultimate Wide-Awake. Inside there is a man who hasn’t slept in five years. 
DOCTOR: Or what’s left of him. 

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It becomes clear as the episode progresses that this second, even more sinister motive lies at the heart of the creation of the Morpheus pod. Of course the Morpheus pod, during its use could have achieved some good. I imagine the tired surgeon performing lifesaving surgery, for example. But the episode doesn’t even hint at such noble motives. As the viewer, even before we know that the sandmen are definitively connected to the Morpheus machine, we have a deep understanding that such a machine is wrong and is ripe for exploitation. Any good is vastly overshadowed by the evil the machine fosters. But that’s because this is a new, freakish machine that we can scarcely imagine. For the rescue team and others in the 38th century it is standard practice. Just like their cloning of grunts who are breed to fight, kill, and die.

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The people in the 38th century see such advances as improvements. And it is easy to imagine that most technological advances didn’t occur overnight. The population had years maybe centuries to get used to the idea of growing humans for war or forgoing sleep. Before the cloning of humans, there was probably mass successful cloning of animals. Before forgoing sleep entirely for a month, there were probably smaller advances that enabled people to forgo sleep for a few days. It is this small incremental change in what a society deems normal that can provide governments with the ability to harness to technology for exploitation and destruction. Of course there are good societal changes and uses of technology that should be celebrated, but it is the devious, sinister uses of technology that often go unnoticed.

For instance, the militarization of the American law enforcement has been  steadily increasing while the majority of Americans remained oblivious. Its seeds can be traced to the protests of the 1960s,  it gained traction during the “war on drugs” in the 80s and 90s, and received renewed power after the attacks on 9/11. The protests in Ferguson, in which the police used tanks, pointed assault rifles at protestors, and dressed up as an occupying force which lead the larger American public to wonder, “how the hell did this happen?”

 

 

This happened because the government, state, local, and federal police departments  harnessed fear and the majority’s desire for peace and security in order to convince the population and themselves that these tanks, assault rifles, etc were needed. In the 60s, protests rocked America, with some agencies, such as the FBI and local police department feeling as if a time of lawlessness had arrived. The very foundation of American stability and democracy was at stake or so they said. The FBI used this reasoning to justify their illegal use of the latest technology: advances in wiretapping, and recording, as well as infiltrating and entrapping activists. In the 80s and 90s, it was the war on drugs and the wave of crime that threatened to undermine America. We needed harsh sentences and punishment for those using and dealing drugs. Local law enforcement needed to protect themselves from evil, ruthless, drug dealers (and don’t get me wrong, there are some vicious drug dealers. Look at the cartels in Mexico, whose progress and spread can be traced in part, to the US governments, “war on drugs”). America was facing an evil, ruthless enemy and federal, state, and local police needed the latest military gear to protect themselves.

After 9/11 the separation between law enforcement, intelligence agencies, and the military became even more blurred. The NYPD’s war on terror is known for its attempts at gleaning intelligence from Muslims through surveillance and the use of informants, regardless of whether such actions are legal or not.  And of course the San Bernardino shooting, in which the shooters had thin ties to any official terrorist group, as lead to police departments, union leaders, etc defending increased militarization.  Yet these are the very same people who defend police officer involved shootings as always justified even though over 1,000

Yet these are the very same people who defend police officer involved shootings as always justified even though over 1,000 Americans have been killed by police in 2015 alone. . But the police expect us to fear one set of terrorists, mainly those perpetrated by those who claim to be Muslim, yet we are to ignore state sponsored terrorism in the form of police shootings.

Police militarization didn’t happen overnight. The State worked to ensure that citizens were not fully aware of what was going on in police departments and the state exploited Americans fear of drugs, crime, and terrorism. In a similar way, Rassmussen and patient zero exploited humanity’s greed and desire for more profits. By the 38th century, society had progressed to the point where sleep was viewed as a commodity to be reduced to short five minute spurts once a month and some people were grown for the use of becoming cannon fodder. We find such a thought abhorrent because that hasn’t been our lived experience. Yet many Americans seem to have no problem with American law enforcement turning into an occupying force.

 

Before the Flood: A Reflection on Breaking the Rules and Questions of Power

DOCTOR: I thought perhaps, because her ghost wasn’t there in the future, like Prentis’s was, I thought maybe, maybe it wouldn’t happen. Maybe she stood a chance. 
BENNETT: Yeah, but you didn’t try very hard to stop her, though, did you? It was almost like you wanted to test your theory. So who’s next? 
DOCTOR: Clara. 
BENNETT: Yeah. Yeah. Except now you’re going to do something about it, aren’t you? Yeah, because it’s getting closer to you. You change history to save yourself but not to save O’Donnell. You wouldn’t save her. 
DOCTOR: This isn’t about saving me. I’m a dead man walking. I’m changing history to save Clara. 

Rules.  Laws. Regulations. They help individuals, communities, and societies have a bit of order, especially during moments of chaos. And despite what many of us may think-especially those of us who are able to live a life of routine and comfort-life is always chaotic and fragile. We aren’t as in control as we like to think. But rules, laws, regulations as well as the punishments that arise when said regulations are broken provide us with the illusion of control. Not saying laws, rules, regulations are good or bad in and of themselves, what matters is asking who benefits from following certain laws? Who benefits from breaking them? Who gets punished for breaking them? In general those who create the laws, etc and enforce them often have more leeway in disregarding them and often suffer very little punishment. They do not have to think about those who are oppressed by certain laws/regulations, let alone about how they are able to carelessly disregard laws with no consequence.

Fans of Doctor Who know that despite the many good qualities of the Doctor-he is caring, he defends the world, he repeatedly tries to come up with solutions that do not entail violence-we also know that he can be manipulative, he has no qualms about breaking the very rules he states that others must follow, and he eschews his values when they are necessary (or convenient). For example, there are times when avoiding the death of others is not possible.  In those scenarios his reaction to their deaths can verge edge on the crassness and carelessness.

Despite the cliff hanger in Under the Lake, we knew that somehow the Doctor would survive. It was just a matter of figuring out how he would get out of this mess.  Despite the Doctor’s insistence on the importance of following the rules of time, we knew-or maybe I should just speak for myself-I knew that the rules don’t always apply to the Doctor and that chances are he would somehow break the very rules he claims to defend.

CLARA: What does it mean? 
DOCTOR: It means I die. 
CLARA: No, not necessarily. We can change the sequence of events so… 
DOCTOR: This isn’t a potential future. This is the future now.  It’s already happened. The proof is right there in front of you. I have to die. 
CLARA: No. You can change things. 

DOCTOR: I can’t. Even the tiniest change, the ramifications could be catastrophic. It could spread carnage and chaos across the universe like ripples on a pond. Oh, well, I’ve had a good innings. This regeneration, it’s a bit of a clerical error anyway. (to Clara) I’ve got to go sometime. 
CLARA: Not with me! Die with whoever comes after me. You do not leave me
DOCTOR: Clara, I need to talk to you just on your own. 
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Clara, at least is very open with her feelings: she doesn’t give a damn about any rules or the consequences. If the rules would cause her to lose the Doctor, then the rules should be discarded. Sometimes rules are unfair and in those cases they should be broken-well at least when they benefit her.  But who wouldn’t feel a similar way? In fact, what I consider heart-wrenching about this episode is that I think most of us would break any rules that would prevent us from saving a loved one, everyone else be damned. And of course in the real world, I fully believe that are situations when rules and laws should be broken. But in determining when that should occur, it is important to return to some questions I asked earlier: who benefits from the rules? Who benefits from breaking them? And who gets punished from breaking them? In other words, questions of power and oppression are central in determining whether an individual or a society should follow a rule/law or disregard said rule/law.

American law enforcement needs to change. In other blog entries (click here or here) I’ve touched on structural racism as well as the stated purpose of the institution as reasons for change. Another reason law enforcement must reform is the fact that the very ones called to enforce the laws are often given extreme leeway when breaking them. The policies on the use of force (which varies on the federal level, as well as on a state and local level) are ostensibly meant to protect both civilians and law enforcement.  However, when a civilian is shot and killed by a police officer the benefit of the doubt is automatically given to the police officer. Especially when no video camera footage is involved. Investigations are handled “internally” or by “outside” law enforcement. The ones who are responsible for deciding whether or not to bring charges against the officer often have a close relationship with law enforcement.  Unlike in situations in which a civilian kills another person, officers are allowed a ‘cooling off’ period after a shooting. Grand juries are shrouded in secrecy, which makes understanding why many officers are not charged extremely difficult to understand and when the whole judicial system is under suspicion, it makes it difficult to trust that the grand jury is seeking to ensure the rights of both the accused and the victims.  Civilian review boards are often nothing more than a public relations move-they are given little power to actually implement recommendations and simply must rely on the police department, its union, or politicians to make much needed change.  Covering up and lying about the circumstances of shooting would justifiably bring charges against a civilian but the two officers who lied about the Sam Dubose shooting in order to back up their colleague, did not face criminal charges. In officer involved shootings, the officer is more often than not given the benefit of the doubt, which turns the notion of justice into a joke.

The United States rightfully condemns other countries whose human rights violations are well known. Yet, at the same time, it remains silent not only about the atrocities committed by allies such as Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Egypt but the United states defends its own atrocious actions in the name of national security. Despite the senate intelligence committee’s report on the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program, no CIA official has been held responsible for torture.  Although CIA whistle blower John Kirakou spent time in prison for detailing the agency’s use of waterboarding.Torture occurred in Abu Ghraib though not many, if any, people in the upper levels of the government were held responsible, and justice on Guantanamo Bay continues to be nonexistent.

In Before the Flood the Doctor eloquently describes why this particular situation is a time where rules can be broken:

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And the Doctor is right. There are occasions in which breaking the law and disregarding the rules is the right thing to do. But there are also occasions when the Doctor is working out of pure selfishness, and Bennett is right to call him out on that.  Likewise, it is vital that when institutions of power argue that there are “good” reasons for breaking certain laws, questions about motive and power need to be asked. Those who participated in the civil rights movement, broke the law. They were willing to be arrested. But they fought to overturn unjust laws that were oppressing and killing black people. Conversely, the United States uses the justification of “national” security to justify torture, the denial of due process, and giving police officers impunity to kill. In this case, the justification of national security is a farce to allow the state to get away with murder and torture.

In the Forest of the Night: Seeing the Things in Front of Us.

DOCTOR: You can’t really tell if something’s an addiction till you try and give it up.
CLARA: And you never have.
DOCTOR: Let me know how it goes.

After Kill the Moon Clara is intent on ending her travels with the Doctor. In the beginning of Mummy on the Orient Express, we find that weeks have passed since the previous episode and while Clara still resolves to stop traveling, she no longer declares her hatred for the Doctor. Yet despite her insistence that she cannot continue to live life the way the Doctor does-recklessly and with little consequence for how others are effected and despite her promise to Danny to finally walk out of the TARDIS for good, she finds that she is unable to do so. So she lies to both the Doctor and Danny. Of course the Doctor and Danny eventually find out she has been lying. In this episode, In the Forest of the Night Danny knows that she has not completely cut ties with the Doctor. He knows that she immediately called the Doctor after seeing London taken over by a forest that sprung up overnight, even though he sensibly thought about calling all of the parents to reassure them. And when Danny tells her towards the end of the episode that he saw the stacks of homework that she needs to grade and that the date on them said Friday, she still tries to lie to Danny. Moreover in this episode, we see how she is more concerned about figuring out the puzzle of the forest, than she is about ensuring that the kids are safe. She cares about the kids, but they are an afterthought.

The thing about addictions is that they quickly begin to consume one’s life. Think about the other companions that have traveled with the Doctor. Sarah Jane in, High School Reunion admits how she had a difficult time going back to normal life.  Donna, when she first left the Doctor at the end of the Runway Bride apparently struggled with going back to her boring life. It is only when the Doctor forces her to forget about their adventures does she integrate successfully into the “real” world. Martha, who although chose to leave the Doctor joins Unit. And Rose, after being left on Bad Wolf Bay works with Unit in the parallel universe-not to mention she finds a way to travel between universes to get back to the Doctor. For many of the companions, especially in NuWho traveling with the Doctor means placing one’s life on hold. While Amy and Rory did navigate back and forth between their real life and their time with the Doctor-the Doctor was the one who originally made that decision for them, deciding when and where to pop back into their lives. Clara, right from the beginning of her time with the Doctor, makes it perfectly clear that she will not be giving up her whole life to travel with him. Yet this season balancing her two lives has become increasingly difficult, especially since she has fallen in love with Danny.

The one moment she seems content to give up traveling is when she thinks that she and everyone else is going to be killed.

DOCTOR: I can save you.
CLARA: I don’t want you to.
DOCTOR: What, you don’t want to live?
CLARA: Of course I want to live. I just
DOCTOR: What?
CLARA: Don’t make me say it.
DOCTOR: Say what?
CLARA: I don’t want to be the last of my kind.

it is only when she faces the following decision: would she rather travel with the Doctor or stay behind with Danny and the rest of the human race and face extinction, that at that moment she is able to leave the Doctor behind. It takes a potentially drastic and devastating event to temporally break her “addiction.” However, once it turns out that the world is not going to be destroyed, she immediately forgets about her previous decision. She is unable to stay away from the lure of traveling throughout space and time. When she tries to convince the children and Danny to watch the solar flare, she is disappointed when they refuse. The children want to be with their parents, understandably, they almost died and they want to be with the people that matter the most to them. And Danny, while he encourages Clara to go reminds her about life on earth:

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Well what’s wrong with wanting to travel through space and time? Most of us if given the opportunity would react no differently than Clara. However, while most of will never get the opportunity to travel through space, and I am pretty sure that in our lifetime none of us will travel through time, as humans we always seem to be grasping for something more. When it comes to striving for more equality and justice, we can make great progress towards ending oppression. Yet most of us, individually and as a society get caught up in grasping for things that will make us happy. Seeking happiness or buying things are not necessarily wrong, but they become dangerous when we seek to prove our self-worth or provide meaning to our lives by what we buy and/or consume. We spend so much of our lives wishing for an alternative reality-we wish we weren’t sick, we wish we didn’t have debt, we wish the economy didn’t suck and we tell ourselves that if we only everything were ok then we could be happy. But unfortunately, most of us will rarely have moments where everything goes well. But if we keep focusing on what we don’t have or pining for what we never had, life will pass us by.

Christianity on the surface, is supposed to provide an alternative way of living that serves as a counterpoint to the shallow consumerism that plagues our society. But popular American Christianity tends to be based on shallow theology. Christianity is reduced to getting into heaven and avoiding hell. In some congregations/denominations, each sermon preached is a variation on the whole, “accept Christ as your savior or you will end up in hell” spiel. Rapture theology, despite having weak biblical and historical roots, continues to fascinate an untold number of Christians who seem to almost relish the thought of having most of humanity suffer and be condemned to hell. And while the notion of heaven-whether as a literal place or understood in a more metaphorical sense with the primary focus being on God’s reign of love, justice, and compassion rather than on a physical afterlife, can provide comfort for those who are grieving and suffering and can inspire others to fight for social justice, it can also serve the same purpose as secular materialism. We become so focused on heaven-yearning for our pain to end, for justice and compassion to reign in the future, that we lose sight of what we have now. What if heaven does not exist as a literal place? What if there is no single moment where everything will magically be ok, where hunger will cease to exist and wars will be eradicated? What if progress will continue like it always has, in fits and starts? Does that render our lives in the here and now meaningless?

Of course there is nothing wrong with seeking progress. And I understand the comfort that notions of heaven, whether literal or metaphorical can have, and I am no way suggesting that heaven does not exist. I can’t say for sure whether an afterlife definitively exists or whether there will be a time period where justice and peace will reign (though I continue to strive for that day). But what I’ve been learning is to embrace a theology that finds meaning in everyday life. I want, when pain and depression are threatening to overwhelm me, to be able to find a flicker of hope-not in some future that may never happen, but in what I see around me. I want to be able find God’s presence around me now.

Clara couldn’t muster up the will to give up traveling until she thought that humanity faced death and once the threat was gone she went back to her lust after adventure. In a similar way, how many of us have faced a life changing situation? How many of us have faced the death of a loved one, or come close to dying and vow that we shall learn to appreciate each day only to seem to forget about that promise within a few days, months, or years?

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Forgetting can be beneficial. Forgetting helps us move forward individually and as a society. But forgetting can also cause us to continue to make the same mistakes over and over again, to believe that violence is redemptive, or that we can be happy if only everything went the way we want/need. We constantly need to remind ourselves that there are wonders in front of us. That there is beauty surrounding us even in the midst of all the pain and suffering. Our moments with friends and loved ones, wrapping ourselves up in our TARDIS blanket on a cold night sipping hot chocolate, studying what we love, playing with our animals-all those little things that seem inconsequential in the grand scheme of things matter. It’s those little things that hurt the most when for whatever reason we forget them. Like when a loved one dies-it hurts to forget the sound of their voice, or the feel of their hands. For me this episode is a call to remember what we have. Not necessarily a discouragement against seeking-but a reminder that sometimes we don’t have to go very far to find what we long for and need.

Flatline: A Reflection On Identity

Western society’s emphasis on the individual has created an understanding of identity that does not acknowledge the importance of relationships or societal context in shaping who we are. “Be who you are despite what others think/say/do.” “Find the real you!” “Get in touch with your inner self” are messages that bombard us on social media and which form the foundation of the self-help industry. While of course it is vital that we do not become overly dependent on others to define our self-worth the reality is that our identity is formed, at least in part, by those around us. We are molded by our interactions with friends, family, and coworkers. Our search for who we are will be in vein if we refuse to concede the essential role others play in our lives and how we in turn influence others.  However, the danger of acknowledging how we shape other people and vice versa, is that we might not always like what we see reflected back to us. And for those of us who grew up in abusive or neglectful households, it is frightening to think that we might share characteristics with our abusers. There is a comfort in believing that we are autonomous beings who can resist being shaped by others and our societal context, and there is a sense of liberation that comes from believing that our lives don’t really impact others. If we acknowledge that such thoughts are false, we will have to think much more critically about how we treat others both individually and on a national level. Such thinking forces us to recognize that we are deeply interconnected with others-from our best friends to those suffering in west Africa, or the Middle East and as a result we can’t simply shrug our shoulders in disinterest or blindly condemn the actions of murderous thugs without recognizing the role we as individuals and as a nation have played in the various oppressions and injustices occurring on the world stage.

In the episode Flatline, the Doctor sees bits of himself reflected back to him through Clara and as a character whose struggles with self-loathing have been a dominant theme since the return of the show, to see himself through Clara troubles him deeply. Because the Doctor is trapped in a shrinking TARDIS, Clara takes center stage and effectively takes up his role in this episode. Clara even jokes about this towards the beginning of the episode

CLARA: I’m the Doctor.
DOCTOR: Don’t you dare.
CLARA : Doctor Oswald. CLARA: But you can call me Clara.
RISBY: I’m Risby. So er, what are you a doctor of?                                                                         DOCTOR: Of lies.
CLARA: Well, I’m usually quite vague about that. I think I just picked the title because it makes me sound important.

But fairly quickly we begin to see how traveling with the Doctor has made Clara blasé about lying. To be fair, traveling with the Doctor always involves a level of duplicity-telling everyone you meet that you travel through space and time in a time machine that looks like a 1950s police box is a sure way to be ostracized or taken in for a mental health evaluation. But those who travel with the Doctor soon find themselves lying extensively or at the very least withholding information from those they love. In the last few episodes we have seen that Clara is lying both to the Doctor and to Danny Pink. She wants to continue her adventure with the Doctor and also her relationship with Danny Pink and fears having to give up either one, so her solution is to withhold and distort the truth.

DOCTOR: Excellent lying, Doctor Oswald.
CLARA: Yeah? Well, thought it was pretty weak myself.                                                              DOCTOR: I meant to me. You told me that Danny was okay with you being back on board the TARDIS.    

CLARA: Well, he is.                                                                                                                       

DOCTOR: Yeah, because he doesn’t know anything about it.                                                       CLARA: Doctor
DOCTOR: Congratulations. Lying is a vital survival skill.
CLARA: Well, there you go.
DOCTOR: And a terrible habit

Shortly after this conversation Clara asks, “Does it even still count as lying if you’re doing for someone’s own good? Well, like, technically their own good.” But who she is talking about? Is she really trying to protect Danny or the Doctor or is she simply avoiding having what may prove to be difficult conversations about the future?

Later on in the episode, Clara begins to understand why the Doctor acts the way that he does-in ways that seem cold, heartless and manipulative. Of course sometimes it is for his own purposes disguised as altruism, but in other cases his actions are the best way he can conceive of to help others. Clara, realizing that she is in charge of keeping Risby. Fenton, and the other workers alive begins to understand the magnitude of this responsibility. And the Doctor gets a glimpse of how he sounds like to others:

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Clara is reflecting back to him the pragmatism that manages to push aside past tragedies, (such as previous deaths) and focuses on what needs to get done in order to ensure that the most people survive.

DOCTOR: Are you okay?
CLARA: I’m alive.
DOCTOR: And a lot of people died.
FENTON: It’s like a forest fire, though, isn’t it? The objective is to save the great trees, not the brushwood. Am I right?
DOCTOR: It wasn’t a fire, those weren’t trees, those were people.

Clara and the Doctor have of course influenced each other throughout their time together. In fact, the show frequently explores how the Doctor and his companions have shaped each other for better or for worse. In Nuwho, the companion has often been a healing influence on the Doctor, especially in regards to the Time War and during his confused post-regeneration phase. The Doctor has often encouraged companions to see their own strengths, to be open to new and strange adventures, and to think outside of the box. Many would argue that in those cases the influence has been mutually beneficial and positive. On the negative side, traveling with the Doctor does take its toll. Sarah Jane Smith, struggled with how to live a normal life after being left behind, Rory and Amy struggled with balancing their normal life and their life with the Doctor. And of course Clara has not only picked up the Doctor’s penchant for lying, even to those that only want to help her and love her, but she has also begun to lose a part of her humanity. (Although the previews for the season finale has me scratching my head as to who or what Clara is. But for now, I am just going to stick with her being human). The woman who convinced the Doctor there must be a different way to end the Time War, and who shouted at the Doctor in, Kill the Moon for being manipulative and for essentially abandoning her to make a decision that could have had catastrophic consequences, seems to have taken a more carefree attitude towards death, at least in this episode.

DOCTOR: Yes, a lot of people died and maybe the wrong people survived.
CLARA: Yeah, but we saved the world, right?
DOCTOR: We did. You did.
CLARA: Okay, so, on balance
DOCTOR: Balance?
CLARA: Yeah, that’s how you think, isn’t it?
DOCTOR: Largely so other people don’t have to.
CLARA: Yeah, well, I was you today. I was the Doctor. And, apparently, I was quite good at it.

At times we become so blind to our words and actions that we don’t recognize their impact until we see others acting in ways that are reminiscent of how we behave. The Doctor, especially in this season has been unmoved about death. In fact in numerous episodes, (Into the Dalek, Mummy on the Orient Express, etc) he mocks those who want to take the time to mourn. What ultimately matters is that evil has been vanquished and that even though some people died, it could have been worse. The Doctor, at least on a logical level is right. As he told Perkins in Mummy on the Orient Express: “People with guns to their heads, they cannot mourn. We do not have time to mourn.” And while his logic makes sense, there is still something that feels off about such an attitude. He sees death and moves on to the next adventure. But seeing Clara react in a similar way forces him to pause.

CLARA: Admit it. I did well.
(Her phone rings. It is Danny. She picks the “I’m in a meeting” text option to end it.)
DOCTOR: Is that PE?
CLARA: Just say it. Why can’t you just say it? Why can’t you just say I did good?

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In our individualistic society we are so keen to deny how interconnected and reliant we are on one other. Of course I am not suggesting a denial of personal autonomy, but there needs to be a balance and a recognition that how we treat others and how they treat us matters. How we interact with others changes all involved for better or for worse. And this remains true on a larger national scale. How we treat foreign nations impacts how they react to us, and while many want to deny it, we can’t simply condemn other countries for human rights abuses without being aware of how our country has treated others. People are rightfully angry at ISIS for their horrific treatment of their own people and of foreigners, but can we say that our country is really above it all? Have our actions possibly influenced and strengthened terrorist movements? In an interconnected world such questions need to be taken seriously.

In Flatline, the Doctor’s eyes were opened to how he influences his companions. Will that change how he treats Clara or how he acts? Not sure. But watching Clara bought about an even deeper level of self-awareness and a reminder that actions have consequences, but not always the ones we think. As a result it essential that we embrace that truth instead of running away from it. We can use this knowledge to reflect more critically on how our nation’s actions intentionally or not contributes to a cycle of violence.

Mummy on the Orient Express: Wounded in a Forgotten War…

I haven’t forgotten that I promised a follow up post for Kill The Moon, however, I am probably going to return to that post after the season ends, in order to include examples from the whole series.

MRS PITT: Is there some sort of fancy dress thing on this evening?
MAISIE: I don’t think so. Why do you ask?
MRS PITT: Well, that fellow over there, dressed as a mummy monster thing.
MAISIE: Who do you mean? I can’t see him.
MRS PITT: You! You! Throw that man out of my dining car. It’s disgusting.
WAITER: I’m sorry, Madam. Which man?
MRS PITT: Which man?! I’ll have your job. That man, right there, dressed as a monster.
MAISIE: Mama, there isn’t anyone there. Are you feeling okay?
MRS PITT: Don’t you dare lie to me, girl. I won’t be made a fool of. Stop it. Stop it. Stop him at once. Right now.
MAISIE: Mama, there’s no one there

When first watching Mummy on the Orient Express, I posted on my facebook profile that Steven Moffat needed to learn about moral injury. While most people are familiar with PTSD and the staggering effect it can have on service members and veterans, moral injury is less well known in popular discourse. While PTSD is a psychological condition  that affects the parts of the brain that deal with the regulation of fear, moral injury, “is the result of reflection on memories of war or other extreme traumatic conditions. It comes from having transgressed one’s basic moral identity and violated core moral beliefs”-Brock and Lettini.

Yet ignorance does not negate how painful and deadly moral injury can be for those who are suffering from it. Moral injury, like PTSD, is invisible, and as a result it can be easy to be dismissive towards the suffering of those experiencing moral injury. We rely on sight to be able to discern what is real and authentic, and such an attitude applies towards our understanding of injuries. We use our sight to gauge the seriousness of a wound and the perceived discomfort of the person with the injury. Injuries that we can’t see, make us uncomfortable since it can be difficult for us to understand the seriousness of such injuries.For instance if a person is on crutches,  we know  that said person will have trouble time getting to and from class, as a result a friend might offer a ride or offer to carry the person’s books. Yet how does one help those suffering from invisible wounds? Additionally, and perhaps this is an indication of cynicism on my part, physical injuries can help us assess the depth and length of support we offer another person. Is there a chance of healing? How long will the person be injured? Do I really have the time and energy and resources (including emotional) to support another person through their difficult journey? What are the chances that I or someone I love will experience this type of injury? Invisible wounds are harder to predict and control.

In this episode, the Doctor and others on the train are threatened by a mummy that is only visible towards those about to die. When Mrs. Pitt complains about someone in costume her granddaughter and those around her understandably question her sanity and health. She does not realize that the mummy is invisible to everyone else but her. In “real life” my reaction would not be much different than her granddaughter’s. Yet even when she dies, her death is dismissed by the other passengers as a health factor, since she was quite old and frail. The only people that have a hunch that something more sinister might be at hand are the Doctor and Clara since experience has taught them that not much is impossible in the universe.

DOCTOR: Come on, Captain. Where would we all be if we all followed our job descriptions, hmm? Good question. Glad you asked. In your case, you’d be doing something instead of climbing inside a bottle.
QUELL: I have followed the procedure for accidental death to the letter.
DOCTOR: Yes, I’m sure you have. And I’m sure you do just enough of your job to avoid complaints.
QUELL: You don’t know anything about me.
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QUELL: There is no evidence of any attack or other parties
DOCTOR: Yes, let’s just sit around and wait for the evidence while the bodies pile up. Or here’s a crazy thought. We could do something to stop it. Why am I even talking to you?

Quell, wants to pretend that nothing unusual is going on. As the captain of the ship, he is responsible for what happens to the passengers, a responsibility that can be daunting in the face of trouble. As a result, he chooses to ignore any hint of suspicious activity. The Doctor points out that his reaction is somehow traced to his experiences in war. Though the Doctor is not sure of the specifics, he knows that Quell wants to try and put his past experiences behind him by seeking solace in a job that is supposed to be relatively trauma-free. And when evidence that something more troubling may be occurring, Quell immediately seeks to distance himself from it. The Doctor, however, understands that ignoring a problem does not magically solve it.

When service members return from war-there is an expectation-by some family members, friends, and perhaps the individual service member, that things will be able to quickly go back to normal, especially if the service member has no discernible injuries. Popular media loves to show case welcome home stories and they are often framed in a fairy tale fashion: the hero has been gone conquering enemies, and now is home and can live happily ever after with loved ones. Yet as the high incidents of alcoholism and suicide demonstrate, some veterans and service members struggle to move past their experiences of war. Furthermore, even those who seem to outwardly be doing well or who aren’t struggle from alcoholism, depression, anxiety etc may still find transitioning home to prove challenging.

As a society we express shock and horror at learning about the suicide rate (about 22 a day), the divorce rate, or the homelessness rate of veterans, and for a few weeks or months we demand change. But after a while as wars languish or are “ended,” and as other issues come to the media forefront, the experiences of our veterans and service members are forgotten We want them to forget their service in a warzone, except to titillate us with details that glorify war. Or at the very least we expect them to act like Quell- who at least on the surface appears to have moved on. If veterans and service members can’t mentally let go of their time in a war zone, we want them to at least go through the motions of normality.

DOCTOR: Oh, come on, Captain. How many people have to die before you stop looking the other way?

………..

QUELL: It turns out its three. The amount of people that had to die before I stopped looking the other way.

At some point denial no longer becomes feasible. For Quell, the death of another person, forces him to wake up and confront the stark reality of his situation. If he wanted to stop the deaths, he would need to get to the root of the problem.

Likewise, in the case, of our returning service members and veterans we need to stop pretending that war is a glorious game, as depicted in the movies. We can’t claim to support our troops and our veterans and then expect them to keep quiet about their experiences, or be able to simply move on and forget about what they have gone through. If we want to truly support our troops than we will have to go beyond trite clichés and the posting of yellow ribbons and deal with the fact that war can be messy and painful. Those of us who are civilians will never understand what our service members and veterans go through/have gone through, but we can provide a listening ear that does not condemn or judge. We can insist that our nation provide adequate health care and support for those asked to fight on our behalf. We can critically think about how our nation’s obsession with war and violence may be less about security and more about profit and greed.

QUELL: You really think it can sense psychological issues?
DOCTOR: It seems so. Why?
QUELL: When you said I’d lost the stomach for a fight, I wasn’t wounded in battle as such, but. My unit was bombed. I was the sole survivor. Not a scratch on me. But post-traumatic stress. Nightmares. Still can’t sleep without pills.
It is important to note, that unlike PTSD, moral injury is not a psychological diagnosis. There is no checklist that a clinician can consult nor any medication that can be prescribed. And of course one can have both moral injury and PTSD at the same time. I have no doubt that Quell would experience PTSD after being the sole survival of his unit-but he may also suffer from moral injury. The importance of one’s unit is drilled into the service member. Each person in the unit must be able to perform at top capacity in order to ensure the safety of their fellow service members. They share an experience that few understand and in times of danger, boredom, etc they have their unit to turn to as family members and friends are often thousands of miles away. They are supposed to be willing to do whatever it takes to care for their fellow service members. This emphasis on the unity of a unit is a essential part of the moral fabric of the military and the inability to fulfill that commitment can be devastating. One can feel as if he/she has violated a deeply sacred moral code-and the fact that such a violation was unintentional matters little. It is hard to imagine that Quell could have done something to protect his unit from a bombardment-especially if it was a surprise attack. Yet the sense of failure is still acute. How do you make sense of surviving while everyone else died? What could you have done differently?

Moral injury calls into question one whole’s identity. We all have concepts of moral actions, of what is “right” and “wrong” and even in war, at least on paper, there is a clear understanding of what actions are acceptable and what actions are not. And most of us have clear criteria for what makes a person moral or immoral and we would like to think that we would do the right thing in all situations. But the reality of war rarely conforms to our neat little categories of right and wrong. Snap decisions are made, and actions occur that are beyond an individual’s control. Most people would not even think to blame Quell for surviving or accuse him of breaking the code of morality that stresses the bond between service members. Yet, reassurances of, “you couldn’t have done anything” and, “you didn’t do anything wrong” sounds cheap and hallow.

DOCTOR: That doesn’t sound like a scroll. That sounds like a flag! And if that sounds like a flag, if this is a flag, that means that you are a soldier, wounded in a forgotten war thousands of years ago. But they’ve worked on you, haven’t they, son? They’ve filled you full of kit. State of the art phase camouflage, personal teleporter.
PERKINS: Ten seconds.

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The deaths from the mummy do not stop until the Doctor recognizes that the mummy is in fact a soldier from a forgotten war. While the war has ostensibly ended centuries ago, for the soldier the war continued. Additionally, once the Doctor found out the mummy was a soldier in a forgotten war, he treated the mummy with respect and not as a helpless victim nor as a horrible monster. One of the important things to remember about moral injury is that it does not render veterans and service members as victims to be coddled. Such a view is condescending and patronizing especially coming from those of us who have never been deployed to a war zone. Instead learning about moral injury should bring about a sense of shame that as a nation we give lip service to the notion of supporting our troops and veterans, but in reality we quickly forget those we ask to fight on our behalf. And even if we view war or a particular war with disdain, that does not negate our obligation to support our veterans and service members.

It is easy for those of us who have never been to war to tell veterans and service members to just “get over it,” especially if years or decades have passed since the ending of a particular war. We tend to view the departure of boots on the ground as the end of a war and we fail to recognize how invisible wounds make it difficult for those who fought to leave the war beyond. And as long as we as a society continue to turn a blind eye to the continued war that many veterans and service members face, there will be more instances of death, drug and alcohol abuse, and homelessness.