Soldiers Speak About the Unspeakable
Question: Which stories\r\nfrom your conversations with soldiers stood out?\r\n\r\n
Nancy Sherman:\r\nTwo stories—two or three really come to mind. So,\r\n one story is by a guy who I worked with at the Wilson\r\nCenter in Washington D.C., he was a Tech Support and he had just come \r\nback from\r\nIraq and found out I was working on this book, and he said he had wanted\r\n to go\r\nto Afghanistan in the early part of these wars. He\r\n thought that was a cause he could believe in. He\r\n had fought in Bosnia and really felt\r\nthat that was an important cause. \r\nHe was called up for Iraq. \r\nHe is part of the Reserves, he’s an older guy, he is now in his\r\nmid-fifties. He’s called “Pop” by\r\nhis troops, but he couldn’t believe in the war, so he said he felt\r\nsuckered. And that was a really\r\npotent word for me. One of those\r\nmoral words, it meant betrayed. \r\nAnd he said for your upper echelon to sucker you in that way is a\r\n hard\r\npill to swallow. And he has sad\r\neyes, a bit of melancholic appearance. \r\nAnd I thought about it and what he really meant was that he—and \r\nhe\r\nsaid, "I’m patriotic, I would go again, there’s no doubt, you don’t let \r\nyour\r\nother comrades go and you stay back—you go. And I\r\n would do it again. And I don’t care if it’s a \r\nDemocrat or a Republican, but to\r\nbe suckered like that." And in his\r\ncase, he was looking for WMD’s or at least part of a war movement, part \r\nof the\r\nforces that were there because of them, and he felt it was a story that \r\nhe\r\ncouldn’t believe.\r\n\r\n
And he would say, “I collected body parts.” That’s what you hear and we don’t see\r\nit on TV much, or we don’t see the images of charred body parts and our \r\nfellow\r\nsoldiers are collecting them and bagging them and smelling it afterward,\r\n and\r\nthe sense that—and he said, “I was almost killed. My\r\n buddy was killed. \r\nBut I can’t believe in the reason.” So \r\nthat dis-sync, that dissidence between a cause and the\r\nmost upright conduct, and a sense of betrayal I think was really potent \r\nfor\r\nme.\r\n\r\n
Another story is from a different side of the war; \r\nand\r\nthat’s interrogation. We think of\r\ninterrogation often in terms of torture. \r\nThat’s been a national debate, are we a country that allows our\r\nsoldiers, our military interrogators to torture? Do\r\n we torture? \r\nAnd not only is it useful, which most people say, no, but is it \r\nmoral,\r\nirrespective of utility?\r\n\r\n
I have a student at Georgetown who I learned was in\r\n Abu\r\nGhraib, an interrogator at Abu Ghraib for the Army, in the clean-up act. And so, I said, did you do anything\r\nthat you felt awkward about, or that you didn’t feel good about. And I was expecting really quite frank\r\ndiscussion of some things that might have verged on waterboarding, or \r\nmaybe\r\nsome sleep deprivation. And he\r\ntold me three things that you might say showed a side of his \r\nsensitivity, but\r\nwere things that he really worried about.\r\n\r\n
One was, he would turn the screw on one of his \r\ndetainees\r\nwhen he couldn’t get him to talk and remind him of his adulterous \r\ninfidelities,\r\nwhich really made this detainee feel awful. But \r\nit kind of brought him down to feel like he had to start\r\ntalking because he had sort of been—his guard was off.\r\n\r\n
The second case had to do with, he had a Sunni and a\r\n Shiite\r\ndetainee and they were both in solitary for a while and they both were \r\ndying\r\nfor recreation and he put the two of these to men together out in\r\nrecreation. It was as good as if\r\nthey were still in solitary confinement.\r\n\r\n
The third incident was someone, a woman, fell in \r\nlove with\r\nhim, or at least showed signs of falling for him. And\r\n so there was a sense in this case of, he did everything\r\nthe right way interrogators are supposed to build intimacy, build \r\nrapport in\r\norder to exploit it, and to exploit it and to manipulate it and to use \r\nhis\r\npower so, so rawly, just rubbed him the wrong way afterward where it \r\nleft\r\nresidue, moral residue you might say, or a moral remnant, a remainder. And he would do it again, and he knows\r\nit was absolutely right as a soldier, or as a military interrogator. But it’s not something he would ever do\r\nto his friends.\r\n\r\n
And so that dis-sync, lack of synchrony between \r\nwhat you do\r\nin uniform and what you would do as a civilian is often the soldiers I \r\nspeak to\r\nand in his case, it wasn’t about fighting for survival or victory, which\r\n is\r\nwhat a ground soldier might explain, but rather in his case, what he was\r\n living\r\nwith was power. The power trip. And\r\nthat he could reduce someone to a sort of abject servility almost, and \r\nthen\r\nmanipulate them. That’s a hard\r\nfeeling to live with. And yet, he\r\ndid what was required, his duty, and honorable conduct in the military, \r\nbut\r\nleaves a residue as a civilian.\r\n\r\n
Question: Did the soldier\r\nfeel guiltier about psychological torture?\r\n\r\n
Nancy Sherman:\r\nThat’s right, it wasn’t physical. \r\nIt was all about emotional manipulation. Good\r\n rapport building is to find the emotional soft spots\r\nand then to just dig, dig, dig and what was fascinating about this \r\nindividual\r\nis that he has a conscience and he didn’t leave his conscience behind. He didn’t check it out. He \r\nbrought it to the interrogation\r\ncell. But, you have to leave it\r\nbehind a tiny bit, so there are moments when he said he would come out \r\nafter\r\neight hours and kind of laugh and say, “I really finally got that guy to\r\n talk.” One case he showed him pictures of\r\nfamily members who had been killed in an explosion by a rival tribe, and\r\n upon\r\nreflection he thought, that was an awful way to deal with the hardship I\r\ninflicted on him. Yes, it’s about\r\nemotional suffering, psychological suffering, but even in the case of \r\nextremes\r\nof torture, it’s often about psychological torture, it’s not just about \r\nburning\r\npeople, or pulling off their fingernails, old-fashioned style.
From mangled bodies to the twisted psychological world of Abu Ghraib, the stories Middle East veterans tell Nancy Sherman reveal a side of war not shown on TV.
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Whether or not women think beards are sexy has to do with "moral disgust"
- A new study found that women perceive men with facial hair to be more attractive as well as physically and socially dominant.
- Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength, social assertiveness, and formidability.
- Women who display higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, are more likely to prefer hairy faces.
Beards and perceptions of masculinity<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg0MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzkxMjM3N30.cH-GqNwP5GVqvstgJWAhBPn1B_lYpVEAI0I7iax7EQw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C1900%2C0%2C849&height=700" id="caae6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cb0a355a4e8e1899789bc45f3f7aef56" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo Credit: Wikimedia<p>The study used 919 American (mostly white) women ages 18-70 who rated 30 pictures of men they were shown with various stages of facial hair growth. The photographs depicted men with faces that had been digitally altered to look more feminine or more masculine, with a beard and without a beard. The women rated the men according to perceived attractiveness for long-term and short-term relationships. The study found that the more facial hair the men had, the higher the men were rated on their attractiveness, particularly for their suitability for a long-term relationship.</p><p>Part of this might be attributed to facial masculinity — i.e. protruding brow ridge, wide cheekbones, thick jawline, and deeply set narrow eyes — which conveys information to a woman about a man's underlying health and formidability. Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength and social assertiveness. It can also indicate a man with a superior immune response. The researchers suggested that their findings favoring bearded men could be due to the fact that facial hair enhances the masculine facial features on a man's face, like creating the illusion of a thicker jaw line. This could communicate direct benefits to women like resources and protection that would enhance survival among mothers and their infants. In other words, while a beard doesn't mean superior genetics in and of itself, it might be a primitive, ornamental way of saying, "Hey girl, I'm a testosterone-fueled lean, mean, pathogen fighting machine." <br></p><p>It could also be that a beard becomes its own destiny. The researchers in this study cite prior research that found that by growing a beard, men felt more masculine and had higher levels of serum testosterone, which was linked to a higher level of social dominance. They also tended to subscribe to more old-school beliefs about gender roles in their relationships with women as compared to men with clean-shaven faces.<span></span><br></p>
What does disgust have to do with beard preference?<p>Obviously, not all women dig beards. The researchers were particularly interested in what traits make a women prefer bearded men over clean-shaven faces. They looked into several factors including a woman's disgust levels on various concepts, her desire to become pregnant, and her exposure to facial hair in her personal life. </p><p>According to the study, women who were not into facial hair were turned-off by potential parasites or other critters they imagined could be in the hair or skin. Women ranking high on this "ectoparasite disgust" scale might have viewed beards as a sign of poor grooming habits. However, women who ranked higher in levels of "pathogen" did find the bearded men to be desirable, possibly because they perceived beards as a signal of good health and immune function. An intriguing discovery in the study was links to morality. Women who displayed higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, were more likely to prefer hairy faces. The authors opined that this could reflect a link between beardedness, politically conservative outlooks, and traditional views regarding performances of masculinity in heterosexual relationships.</p>
Additional findings<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg1My9vcmlnaW4uZ2lmIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDI1NjUyOX0.P9B8WbmJR0q4nfzYZKbuNSA-2SAigVWJgrQE-_Gxlds/img.gif?width=980" id="49143" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2ed3b1d6f20fc170bf2974646e565e8d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />Giphy<p>The correlations that existed between married and single women's rating on the attractiveness of beards were not particularly clear, although the researchers noted that single and married women who wanted children tended to find beards more attractive than the women who didn't want children. They also found that women with bearded husbands found beards to be more attractive, which might indicate that social exposure to beards influences how desirable they are perceived of as being. Or it could be that men with wives who like beards grow beards.</p><p>It's important to note that culture plays a huge role in how attractive women perceive certain male characteristics as being. This study looked at a small, culturally specific group of American women, so no big, universal claims should be made about masculinity, facial hair, and male desirability to women. However, research like this is important in highlighting how human grooming decisions are driven by much more than fashion trends. Sociobiological, economic, and ecological factors all play a part in the way we choose to present ourselves.</p>
Yet 80 percent of respondents want to reduce their risk of dementia.
- A new MDVIP/Ipsos survey found that only 35 percent of Americans know the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.
- Eighty percent of respondents said they want to reduce their risks.
- An estimated 7.1 million Americans over the age of 65 will suffer from Alzheimer's by 2025.
Credit: logika600 / Shutterstock<p>Remaining healthy requires regular screenings. Here again we see a disassociation between risk reduction and proactivity. Seventy-seven percent of respondents don't talk to their doctors about lifestyle habits that support brain health; 51 percent have never been screened for depression; 44 percent have never had a neurological exam; and 32 percent have never been screened for hearing problems. </p><p>Common early warning signs of dementia, <a href="https://news.yahoo.com/americans-worry-alzheimers-disease-survey-140644803.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">according to</a> Dr. Jason Karlawish, co-director of the Penn Memory Center, include repetitive questions and stories, difficulties with complex daily tasks, and trouble with orientation. </p><p>In terms of intervention, <a href="https://bigthink.com/21st-century-spirituality/does-lack-of-exercise-lead-to-dementia" target="_self">exercise</a>, <a href="https://bigthink.com/surprising-science/obesity-dementia" target="_self">diet</a>, building a <a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/brain-reserve" target="_self">brain reserve</a>, and challenging your brain (such as learning a new language or musical instrument) are all proven methods for staving off the ravages of Alzheimer's. Oxytocin has also <a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/alzheimers-oxytocin" target="_self">showed promise</a> in brain-addled mice, while researchers found positive results for a <a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/intermittent-fasting" target="_self">group of intermittent fasters</a> in promoting neurogenesis. </p><p>Epidemiologist Bryan James says that dementia is <a href="https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2013/04/15/176920391/how-exercise-and-other-activities-beat-back-dementia" target="_blank">not an inevitable result</a> of aging. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"It's simply not pre-destined for all human beings. Lots of people live into their 90s and even 100s with no symptoms of dementia." </p><p>Professor of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine, Andrew Budson, <a href="https://news.yahoo.com/americans-worry-alzheimers-disease-survey-140644803.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recommends</a> aerobic exercise and the Mediterranean diet. As has long been known, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, fish and shellfish, and healthy fasts like nuts and olive oil seem to have brain-boosting properties. </p><p>To learn more, take the <a href="https://www.mdvip.com/brain-health-iq-quiz" target="_blank">Brain Health IQ quiz</a>.</p><p><span></span>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>