Remember the supermarket scene near the end of the Iraq War movie The Hurt Locker? Jeremy Renner plays an Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician. After countless telephoto shots of IEDs going off terrifyingly close, the sergeant is finally safe at home in America with nothing more stressful to do than pick out which brand of cereal to buy his small family. But a fish-eye lens shot shows the valiant warrior lost in a supermarket aisle seemingly a mile long.
Vanity Fair war correspondent Sebastian Junger, codirector of the documentary Restrepo about American soldiers in Afghanistan, points out in his recent book Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging that American soldiers currently suffer from the highest rate of post-traumatic stress disorder in human history.
This short book tries to sum up the political lessons Junger has learned from a quarter century of going to and coming home from dangerous places. It’s a work of swashbuckling anthropological theory that tries to answer the question raised by Restrepo: Why do the guys defending a fort in Afghanistan find living in a tiny bunker to be a blast, while coming home to America is so discombobulating for them?