Nothing compares to the rush. No other pursuit could be so exhilarating and meaningful, so loaded with the paradoxical sensation of being entirely alive yet also careening out of control on the edge of death. For those who taste its deliciously deadly nectar, there is usually no turning back.
This gripping potion, according to author and New York Times correspondent Chris Hedges, is not cocaine or peyote or ambition or rage. It is war. Those who cover war—as he did for two decades in Central America, the Middle East and Bosnia—become as addicted to its ephemeral rewards as do those wearing the uniform in the trenches. He recounts his struggle with the narcotic of war in War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (Anchor).
And those who consume reports from the frontlines in kitchens and living rooms back home, Hedges argues, can seldom avoid getting intoxicated by and addicted to the sanitized version they imbibe.
G. Jeffrey MacDonald is a freelance journalist, ordained United Church of Christ minister, and author of Thieves in the Temple: The Christian Church and the Selling of the American Soul (Basic Books, 2010).