Sunday, January 18, 2015

A Song of PTSD and Cars

When Peter S. Dee and the Inhuman $hields formed, our mission was to write new words for old songs to bring a little extra attention to wounded warrior issues.  If you're a civilian, you might understand what PTSD is, but unless you closely work with or know someone who has it, or have it yourself, you really may not grasp it as well as you think. PTSD is a primarily neurological condition and can be caused by physical trauma as well as psychological trauma (and various combinations of both), as you probably know. Accordingly, it's hard to treat, and in mild cases, hard to diagnose.  In severe cases, PTSD victims may nightly re-live their greatest fears in extremely frightful nightmares. In mild cases, sufferers may just be especially quick to anger, which endears them to no one. 

Iraq and Afghanistan were the first wars where Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) were used against any army on a such a massive scale, in an ever more dangerous attack-counter-counterattack cycle of improving IEDs and improving counter measures.  

As our medivac, new battlefield medical technologies, and improved body armor saved more lives, the numbers of wounded increased naturally as those who might have died lived instead.  These survivors often lost many of their limbs and suffered horrific burns.  And they got to go home to their families, with new challenges to overcome, often daily.  

The overblast pressure of even relatively small IEDs caused traumatic brain injuries and concussion which could have lingering neurological effects, with no outward appearance of injury.  There may be no truer aphorism than "only the dead have seen the end of war."   

#BattlingBare is a large social media support group of wives who expose their own vulnerabilities as a
way to encourage their wounded husbands to work towards healing their psychological trauma.

Unsurprisingly, insurgent IEDs tend to target military vehicles.  Like in our civilian lives, the military vehicle is a tactical center of gravity, a key enabler, a force projector--to forcefully misuse strategic military jargon.  He who controls key terrain like the roads--or lines of communication--controls the battlefield in an insurgency.  The IED is a natural weapon to go against a vehicle bristling with weapons, or cargo trucks with valuable supplies being escorted by vehicles bristling with weapons.  There just are not enough helicopters to go around conducting mundane tasks like re-supply during two hot wars.  Also, to engage hearts of the public you're trying to win over, you must meet their leaders face-to-face, and you usually get their faces by driving to them.  

If I recall the story correctly, Gary Numan (who is still quite active) claimed he gained inspiration for Cars in the late 1970s after feeling threatened once in a London street when some street thugs made him nervous.

"Here in my car, I feel safest of all. I can lock all my doors, it's the only way to live, in cars."

That is typically true. We generally feel safer on most streets of America or the United Kingdom with our car doors locked.  I thought those lyrics were a little ironic in the sense of a Humvee or an Abrams in a war zone, where RPGs look to gain entry inside to do nefarious things to the occupants.  

When soldiers come back from constantly scanning for IEDs from within their up-armored Hummers, Maxx-Pros, Rhinos, and others, they continue scanning for IEDs on their streets at home from within their pickups, sedans, and motorcycle helmets.  Anything could hide a roadside bomb, from a Hefty bag to a guard rail to roadkill.  Everything looks like a bomb, and once you get caught in one detonating, they all may after that.

Cars has been a favorite song of my own since I was a kid, and I'd always wanted to cover it.  The 2009 Fear Factory cover with Gary Numan was additional inspiration.  

I think it is important to note that this song and video are not intended to benefit those suffering personally from PTSD-related issues.  It is designed to give a glimpse into the life for outsiders.  Most simply do not know what it is like to have earned PTSD, and this is just one interpretation.  

The words came naturally, and with a little help from The Inhuman $hields, the overall song quickly came together, although finding time to get together to practice and record is always challenging.  A good cover tune will play to the strengths of the band; it shouldn't sound exactly like the original, and ours... well, you'll just have to see how we built it and judge for yourself.  By the way, the cover art is a modification of  "2,000 Yard Stare" by Thomas Lea.

Cars are iconic in our lives.  Think of all the TV shows with those amazing iconic cars.  This Pinterest might help you think of a few. Some of images and clips in the video, like the General Lee, Speed Racer, the Ecto-1 from Ghostbusters are there to serve an important point about the relatively safe life we lived as civilians before we ever became soldiers--and the life we live when we get back, too.  I personally see a sexy Jessica Simpson writhing around a soapy General Lee and think "pampered."  But, when I was a kid, the Dukes of Hazard was a favorite show of mine, and Speed Racer was one of my imaginary friends, as was Chim-Chim.  

The point is this, also....  For all the ass-kicking awesomeness of the Mach 5, David Hasselhoff's Kitt, the A-team van, and the numerous Batmobiles, our military vehicles are equally awesome, and they were pushed to--and well beyond--their limits by war, with us inside them.  If only they could have protected us from all harm and punished all of our enemies like they seem to do in film.

This video is not intended to be neither pro-war nor anti-war.  Conflict is a fact of human existence, and war is the ultimate, terrible outcome of unresolved human conflict.  There is nothing more horrible man does against another, but holding a black-and-white position against all war is a naive and uncritical position.  Overwhelming violence is a tool which we must use from time to time to solve conflict; the strategic idea is to have a strong war machine to deter war and maintain peace, or employ to return to a peaceful state in the shortest time possible.  

In the end of the video I re-purpose Metallica's One video excerpts from the anti-war classic Johnny Got His Gun.  It's preceded by a visual mind-trip matched to the music, which itself is preceded by the opening scene from Police Squad.  When all of this follows the lyrics: 

"Here in my dreams, I know I've started to think About leaving this world 'cuz nothing seems right, in dreams,"

We're speaking suicide here.  Sometimes it seems the only way out of the pain and the dreams--which cannot be controlled--is suicide, and the suicide rate among the military is at record highs.  Imagine what it must feel like to get to that point in your life, if you never have.

And finally, in the video, I give a hat-tip to Gary Numan, Fear Factory, and Trent Reznor, all super talented artists who inspire me personally from a musical perspective.

The video clip of Gary with Nine Inch Nails in concert in London in 2009 is especially interesting to me, aside from being an awesome performance.  While these Westerners were enjoying themselves safely in a mass-venue arena, servicemen and women from a few dozen Western Nations were engaged in protecting them in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere in a global war on Islamic totalitarianism and terrorism.  

Such is the sacrifice for freedom, and it's why we honor our military and the security it gives us.  It is indirectly why Gary Numan, a Brit, recently moved to live in America, although he may not look at it that way.  That one anecdote speaks volumes to me.  

If you like our cover tune, you can download or just listen to the mp3 at our storefront.  Here is the video:


Cars (Dreams) by Peetey S. Dee and The Inhuman Shields ©2015 
Original music and Lyrics by Gary Numan (1979).

Verse 1
Once, in my car
I felt safest of all
But when I lock all my doors
It's not the only way in
My car.

I went to Iraq
And I played in the sand
But then I came back
and was not the same man
In cars.

Verse 2

Alongside the road
All things look like a bomb
(And) They always go off,
So I can never be calm
In mind.

Here in my mind
There is Peetey S Dee
He's such a good friend [Hey, that's a reference to this blog!]
Though we fight constantly
In mind.

Verse 3
When I’m awake
I compartmentalize
But when I’m asleep
I battle my cries
In dreams.

Here in my dreams
I know I've started to think
About leaving this world
Cuz nothing seems right
In dreams.


And if you're interested, here is one of Gary's latest songs, "I am Dust," released 5 months ago, 35 years since Cars. It's very good.

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