There’s a lot of expectations of who we should be as people or how we should react to things. All teenagers are moody, want nothing to do with their families and spend all day on the internet. All women are expected to want to be married, do their makeup, wear heels, and have kids. Asians are supposed to be smart. People are supposed to be happy to come home and see their families when they spend a long time away. People also spend a lot of time trying to break these molds,John Bartle, main protagonist of The Yellow Birds, was one of those people. In the book “the Yellow birds” the author Kevin Powers has shown people in the book that free themselves from the stereotypes because they want to be their own, independent person.
In John Bartle’s case hJohn Bartle, main protagonist of The Yellow Birds, was one of those people. He spent 13 months at war; away from friends, family, pets, and anything he’d ever know. The expectation was that he was going to be thrilled to come home. His mom couldn’t wait to have her son back, he was finally going to be at home in a safe, stable environment, and his friends were finally there to support him. But he wasn’t happy. Author Kevin Powers, a veteran himself, says “As human beings, we have both the blessing and the curse that we're able to adapt to almost anything. No matter how extreme the circumstances you're in, they become normal. Then there's a sense that coming home is a letdown—because you've been in this kind of heightened state for so long, just the ordinary nature of everyday life can be confusing and frustrating.” For Bartle, war was normal. He’d adapted to the constant danger, so when he came home, he had to confront the emotions he didn’t have time to deal with while he was serving in Iraq. He had to face the death of fellow soldier Daniel Murphy. Before he left, Bartle had promised to return Murphy home safe to his mother. So hHe had to deal with the emotions that came with the failure to keep that promise.
Bartle says “to understand the world, one’s place in it, is to be always at the risk of drowning.” When he returns home, he really has to confront how bad war really was. In that moment, when he was facing attack from the enemies, he wasn’t thinking about how he’d rather be home safe in his bed. He was thinking about survival. When he was there, war didn’t seem so bad. Things don’t ever really seem so bad until you have a comparison. Coming home, he was faced with a flood of emotions; relief that he was finally safe, joy to be home with his mother, overwhelming depression, and a feeling of disappointment. When he understood where he was and what he had done, he was drowning in his own head. “Or should I have said that I wanted to die, not in the sense of wanting to throw myself off of that train bridge over there, but more like wanting to be asleep forever because there isn’t any making up for killing women or even watching women get killed, or for that matter killing men and shooting them in the back and shooting them more times than necessary to actually kill them and it was like just trying to kill everything you saw sometimes because it felt like there was acid seeping down into your soul and then your soul is gone and knowing from being taught your whole life that there is no making up for what you are doing…” He knows that although what he didn’t wasn’t a mistake, he was trying to save himself, there was no bringing those these people back to life. Good or not,those these people were people with families, and hopes and dreams and lives to live. Instead of feeling carefree and overjoyed and that he could now do whatever he wanted, he faced feeling hopeless and suicidal.
When Powers continues to talk about his book, he says, "I wanted to show the whole picture. It's not just: you get off the plane, you're back home, everything's fine. Maybe the physical danger ends, but soldiers are still deeply at risk of being injured in a different way. I thought it was important to acknowledge that." Most p People don’t realize the psychological damage that comes from war. Many veterans go as far as to say that they’d rather be physically disabled because then at least people know what your problem issource needed. Powers himself struggled with the emotional trauma of war when he came back and he wanted to share a minimal fraction with t least a tenth of an understanding with the general public.
The details of war are a thing that soldiers don’t really realize in the moment. How many bullets you shoot, how much mud is on your boots, how many people on the enemy side die. When faced with a matter of life and death, these are things that are seemingly irrelevant. “The details of the world in which we live are always secondary to the fact that we must live in them.” These, however, are still things they have to live with. Bartle and the other men he stood beside had to live for the rest of their lives wondering if they’d killed someone or how many people they killed or how many people will live the rest of their lives injured because of their actions. The folks at home don’t think about these things, they think about how our men should be happy to be coming home. To civilians, this seems like something they should just be able to put beside them, to leave overseas. However, these memories, thoughts, ideas, and emotions continue to be incredibly painful.
Who exactly are you?
I feel like that’s a question that has plagued every teenager to have ever lived. There’s a lot of ideas about who I should be, but who exactly am I? According to TV, I’m a juvenile delinquent. I should smoke pot and drink and being have unprotected sex. Everybody knows teenagers are nothing but trouble. According to colleges, I should have straight A’s and be on the debate team and speak at least 2 languages and volunteer and have a great SAT score, but all while I try to find time to do homework, sleep, and spend time with my family. According to my parents, I should be myself, but no, not like my actual self. Like they want me to be. I should have amazing grades, and be skinny and beautiful. Find a boyfriend, join robotics, be a total teachers pet, babysit all the neighborhood kids, dress in the newest and nicest clothes, and have a job.
According to me, I don’t really know.
I like science, I also really like cheerleading. I go out on those blue matts in my sparkly red and black bow, yell my heart out, dance, stunt andbe more specific for a general audience that might not know what this is tumble. One of the girls on my team told me I was too smart to be a cheerleader. Cheerleaders are supposed to be dumb. I guess I never thought about it, I just liked the sport. I never considered my intellect to be a property that determines what sport I play. I might be a massive geek, but that’s okay. I don’t mind it. I work at TFI as well. I code virtual realities. I wouldn’t say I exactly fit the bill for a programmer either. I’m not afraid of talking to boys, I don’t play Dungeons and Dragons, I prefer Mac to Windows any day of the week, and I think I have some social skills.
My Ddad had this idea that I was going to be class president. I was going to date the Ccaptain of the Ffootball team, I was going to go out every Friday night and curl my hair and do my makeup. Much to his dismay, I chose a weird high school. I hate doing makeup. I’ll never be Cclass Ppresident. I’ll never be the daughter that makes him proud. I’m never going to pretty enough or talented enough. I’ve spent the past few years trying to prove, in fact, that I might actually be talented. I’m just not who he wants me to be.
When I went to see the psychiatrist the first time, literally every other question was “do you smoke pot?” Granted, the therapist did forewarn me he thought all kids smoked pot, “because of the news.” Do you drink? No. Smoke pot? No. Have a boyfriend? Yes. Does your mother know? Yes. Smoke pot? No. How’s school? Fine, sir. I guess. Smoke pot? No. Self harm? We’ll talk about this later. Smoke pot? Jesus fucking Christ, I swear if you ask one more time. All the time I’ve spent with the man has been me trying to convince him that a) I wasn’t pregnant b) I didn’t smoke pot and c) I knew that smoking pot increased your chances to be diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Alright, despite the fact that I, like most teenagers, spend so much time trying to declare my independence, I’m going to be typical. I feel like adolescence is an age span that’s not really understood by people real well. Being a teenager is great, don’t get me wrong. I can do things on my own and go out, but my mom still pays for things. But it’s difficult; but junior year we’re so stressed about college that sleep is non-existent. We’re encouraged to be ourselves, so long as we meet our parents idea and college’s idea. But you know what, I’m going to be myself. I don’t really care about whatever people think. Power to the science geeks.