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America has grappled with the questions posed by injured veterans since its founding, and with particular force since the early twentieth century: What are the nation's obligations to those who fight in its name? And when does war's legacy of disability outweigh the nation's interests at home and abroad? In Paying with Their Bodies, John M. Kinder traces the complicated, intertwined histories of war and disability in modern America. Focusing in particular on the decades surrounding World War I, he argues that disabled veterans have long been at the center of two competing visions of American war: one that highlights the relative safety of US military intervention overseas; the other indelibly associating American war with injury, mutilation, and suffering. Kinder brings disabled veterans to the center of the American war story and shows that when we do so, the history of American war over the last century begins to look very different. War can no longer be seen as a discrete experience, easily left behind; rather, its human legacies are felt for decades.
The first book to examine the history of American warfare through the lens of its troubled legacy of injury and disability, Paying with Their Bodies will force us to think anew about war and its painful costs.
- ISBN-13: 9780226210094
- ISBN-10: 022621009X
- Publisher: University of Chicago Press
- Publish Date: March 2015
- Page Count: 368
- Dimensions: 9.11 x 6.78 x 0.97 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.38 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-02-23
- Reviewer: Staff
Kinder, an American Studies professor at Oklahoma State University, offers a cultural history of America’s disabled veterans from the Civil War to today’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Concentrating on 20th-century wars above all—with particular attention paid to WWI—Kinder zeroes on what he calls the “Problem of the Disabled Veteran”: that is, how the nation deals with its war wounded and what political lessons are to be drawn from the social effects of the vast numbers of disabled veterans. Kinder identifies two main political “fantasies” involved in the problem: the generally pro-war view that the U.S. can remain a global military power “without incurring the social, economic, and physical consequences associated with veterans’ disabilities,” and the anti-war belief “that Americans will permanently reject war because of the risks to soldiers’ bodies and minds.” Both fantasies are false, Kinder says, and he mixes in sketches of well-known disabled veterans—including Harold Russell (WWII), Ron Kovic (the Vietnam War), and Tammy Duckworth (the Iraq War)—with bigger-picture issues involving the social and political impacts of veterans’ disabilities. It’s a well-written, though academically tinged, tome that illuminates the long-lasting human legacy of America’s wars. (Apr.)