- In David Morris’s book, “The Evil Hours,” it’s not an IED exploding or the violent death of a friend or getting caught in a firefight that’s difficult to bear; it’s remembering and reliving those incidents, sometimes years later, that is truly tormenting.
“The Evil Hours” investigates his own experience with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — an affliction with ancient roots, but which remains mysterious to us. The symptoms for veterans are well-known: devastating flashbacks to living in a war zone, sudden outbreaks of violence, crippling insomnia and nightmares, an inability to understand or cope with modern American life. But knowing the symptoms doesn’t make the condition easy to treat, which is a mounting challenge as more people are being added to VA rolls.
In addition to documenting the treatments for PTSD, Morris also takes a broader, cultural look at the way the western world has grappled with war and trauma throughout time. In doing so, Morris criticizes the way we have come to understand PTSD as a brain disease that can be cured through pharmaceuticals or mental conditioning. He argues that trauma comes from situations that are absurd, violent, grotesque, and profound and to begin to understand it, we have to try to understand the weighty questions about death and war and human nature that it raises.
- In 2004, Maj. Margaret Witt’s unit was headed off to war in the Middle East, but the decorated flight nurse was told she could not go. Witt was told that she would be discharged because someone had told her superiors that she was gay. Witt filed suit against the U.S. Air Force and won the case, eventually dismantling “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Witt, who now lives in Portland, has co-written a book about her life called “Tell: Love, Defiance, and the Military Trial at the Tipping Point for Gay Rights.”