Mary-Louise Parker: Military Life Is Misunderstood by the Left and the Right

Actress and Writer
Over a year ago

Tony Award-winning actress Mary-Louise Parker isn't the first person you would associate with a military family upbringing, but that may be the point. The closer you get to a person — in this case, her father, who fought in three wars as an American soldier — the more your stereotypes of them melt away. While the American armed forces are composed of a smaller segment of the population than ever before, there is still great diversity in their ranks.

In the case of Parker's father, who told her that "no one hates war like a solider," their was an undying critical attitude toward politics and deployment that came directly from his experience in battle. He was, according to Parker, a magnanimous man who checked his ego and presuppositions before getting to know you. There was a downside, too — a direct byproduct of the wars he fought it.

The post-traumatic stress he suffered affected his daughter, and the rest of the family, in a way that carried through generations. Yet Parker knows it wasn't him "driving the car." What also carried through from his generation to his daughter's was a sense of what war is really like. We think of war as a television news program or a video game scenario, says Parker. But the reality is something far different, far more distressing. If that knowledge is lost — knowledge of what war is really like — then we risk sending our friends and loved ones into battle for unwarranted reasons.

Parker's book, in which she discusses the legacy of her father as well as other men in her life, is Dear Mr. You.