Killing, Burden of

The unique burden of killing is culturally informed and something that humans throughout time have experienced. Lethal violence that is not socially sanctioned often produces feelings of shame or guilt, according to David Grossman, in all but the most diagnosable sociopaths. The social approval of war should, therefore, reduce the prevalence of guilt, shame, or remorse in those who conduct violence on behalf of a society. But combatants throughout modern history have consistently displayed a fundamental dissonance with the social architecture surrounding organized violence. Such dissonance has been known by many names, but its most prevalent monikers have been soldier’s heart, shell shock, war neurosis, posttraumatic stress disorder, and most recently, moral injury. This burden has expressed itself in the tragic epidemic of suicide in ...

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