Michael Anthony is the author of Civilianized, “an intense memoir” (Kirkus) about his return to the U.S. from a combat tour in Iraq. He is also the author of Mass Casualties: A Young Medic’s True Story of Death, Deception, and Dishonor in Iraq, which received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. He has written for the Washington Post blog, the Business Insider blog, as well as several others, including a year-long stint as a feature writer and the editor of the “War and Veterans” section of the Good Men Project. He lives in Boston and can be contacted through is website: MassCasualties.com.
Michael Anthony Gives Part II of an Interview, regarding his new book, with SV’s Bob Shuman. (Read part 1: http://stagevoices.com/2017/02/05/michael-anthony-is-back-from-iraq-in-his-new-memoir-civilianized-from-pulpzest-books/ )
Back at it:
Name two books on war, other than your own, that you would put in a time capsule.
All Quiet on the Western Front and Catch-22. Both of those books are the most amazing books on war I’ve ever read. They’re novels, but they capture the heart and essence of war better than any other books, memoirs, or novels, that I’ve ever come across.
I’ve given Catch-22 to many people to read, veterans and civilians, and it’s interesting because I’ve had a handful of civilians all say something similar to me about Catch-22, which was something along the lines of “I wasn’t too crazy about the book; it was too absurd, not realistic enough.” And on the reverse, all the veterans I’ve given a copy of Catch-22 to all comment that it’s “Hilarious, and such an accurate portrayal of the ridiculousness of the military and war…” Both books show the true reality and absurdity of war:
Do you worry about the U.S. becoming involved in another war—and have you become a pacifist?
I’ve come to believe, unfortunately, that war is a part of human nature. The bible talks of wars against good and evil, and Jane Goodall, the famed primatologist, speaks of our cousin chimps and apes fighting wars over territory and supplies. On both sides of this issue, creationists, religious people, scientists, and evolutionists seem to believe that we’re here to fight. Whether it’s in our DNA, through evolution or part of our souls, it seems like it’s something that’s here to stay. I think that at the end of the day all we can do is hope that we’re on the right side of the war and that history will be kind to our version of things.
What is the best way to support someone coming back from deployment?
I think the best way to approach someone isn’t in a veteran vs. civilian conversation, but more as just two people having a conversation.
Asking questions such as “Seen anyone die?” and “Almost die yourself?” are very personal questions. They could be the equivalent of asking, in a sense, “When’s the last time you masturbated?” or “How much money do you make?” and so on. War, and the feelings and experiences that comes with it, are very personal. We’ve glorified it and pacified it, though, in movies and TV shows, so it makes it seem okay to just go up to a vet, just back from the war, and ask these questions. Maybe he or she did see someone die and maybe it was a friend, or maybe someone was killed and the death is still haunting him or her. My suggestion would be just to have a normal, caring, honest conversation, but don’t push the boundaries unless it seems as though the veteran is the one looking to talk about those things.
What’s the best review you ever received from someone who was sent to Iraq or Afghanistan?
The best reviews and notes I receive from veterans are always when they say that my writing has helped him or her in some way. That’s it. Clear and simple. Whether they’re saying I inspired them to write a story about their experiences, or whether my writing helped them make sense of their own experiences, or whether it helped them to reach out to friends/family, or anything in-between, that’s what matters. The best notes that writers get are just those that let them hear that their work moved and inspired a person, and when I hear that my work has inspired a veteran to go seek help, to reach back out to a friend, to think more deeply about things, or even to write a story themselves, those are always the notes that make it all worthwhile.
How do you stay involved in veteran affairs?
Throughout the years I’ve volunteered and worked with and reached out to many different veterans and groups so that there’s always a contact who’s looking for help in some way. Whether it’s to help fundraise for a veteran group or charity, help build a house for a disabled vet, or just meeting up to talk, there’s no shortages of ways to help out veterans. Unfortunately, there’s also no shortage of veterans in need of help, so instead of sticking with one charity and helping in one way, I’ve gone the route of volunteering at dozens of different types of veterans charities. I think the novelty of volunteering with different groups has kept me from burning out after all these years.
Thank you, Michael. Good luck with your book.
View Civilianized on Amazon: Civilianized
(c) 2017 by Michael Anthony (answers) and Bob Shuman (questions). All rights reserved.