Why truth is important, at least after the fact

The story of the Dieppe hero who wasn't (see the post below) begs its own questions, most importantly why did I feel it necessary to include in the book at all.

The story he told was compelling, though, and certainly if it had been true I would have included it, just as nearly every other author has. But he wasn't a Ranger, and after I debunked it for myself I debated whether I should include it at all. I didn't feel angry that the man had received honors and had gone done in history for something he didn't do. On the contrary, I felt sorry for him - my impression was that he felt so much survivor guilt, and perhaps shame at not being able to live up to whatever he thought he should have done under fire, that he invented a story that made him look like an action hero to compensate. Revealing that seemed almost like compounding his wounds and pain.

And who was I to pass judgement? I wasn't there; who knows how I would have reacted that day, under those circumstances, at that moment. We all like to think we will be brave under every circumstance, on every occasion, yet of course that is impossible. Who are any of us, really, to judge what another person does? True judgement can only be rendered by God.

And yet, anyone reading his story must think, can only wonder, why if this man was able to achieve what he claimed to achieve, others couldn't. That reason alone made it important to include the story somewhere, even if ultimately it might be tangential to the rest of the tale.

After I finished the book, I realized the story of his bravery, and non-bravery, echoed in many ways one of the important themes of the work - what courage really is, and how those who come later attempt to retrieve and relive that courage. In many ways, the battle - all battles - that we revisit can tell us as much about ourselves as about the men who fought it. If we're willing to look at it with clear eyes, and struggle for the truth.

No comments: