I am watching the second season of the outstanding Israeli drama Fauda.
The intense military thriller was co-created by a former Israeli special operations soldier named Lior Raz, who also stars as shit-magnet Doron Kavillio. The series draws on Raz’s experiences with a special counter-terrorism unit that conducts undercover operations in the Occupied Territories. Fauda is relentless and it does not shy away from depicting the trauma that everybody connected with the endless Israeli/Palestinian conflict lives with and in.
It’s striking how intimate and personal the conflict is; not so much a geopolitical struggle as it is a blood feud. Such is the nature of Frontier Partisans warfare.
To cite just one example: The Texas/Mexico border simmered in ethnic and interpersonal feud for the better part of a century, with periodic flare-ups into open warfare. The Bandit War of 1915-19 along the Rio Grande mixed personal beefs over land and resources with revolutionary ideology and factionalism in a deadly cocktail that led to raid, reprisal and massacre. The nasty, brutal and tragic nature of this conflict is vividly depicted in Season 1 of AMC’s The Son.
Eduardo Obregón Pagán, a professor at Arizona State University has written what seems to be a fascinating study on America’s nastiest blood feud — the Pleasant Valley War. That sanguinary episode of the 1880s in central Arizona took far more lives than the more celebrated Hatfield/McCoy ruckus. Valley of the Guns: The Pleasant Valley War and the Trauma of Violence, as the title indicates, explores the ongoing traumatic impact of blood feud violence in a way that is often overlooked. Pagán notes in an article on ASUNow.com:
“Everybody involved in this conflict — everybody I could trace — they were indelibly marked by the violence here in tragic ways. Suicides later on. Women took their lives, ended up in insane asylums. Many of the men became alcoholics and died because of that. … We never talk about the aftermath of violence in the West, but everyone was affected, in very negative ways.”
Pleasant Valley was beautiful, but dangerously isolated, and its early settlers were vulnerable — first to Apache raiders, then to each other.
“You’re on your own,” Pagán said. “What that does is produce a community of fear. That’s what existed in the early 1800s was this small community — and I really mean small — really no more than about a dozen households during this time. … How did the relentless anticipation of surprise attack wear on them day after day, year after year?”
Pagán worked with colleagues in psychology, physiology and biology to discuss the science of how the brain works under trauma.
“The impact of trauma, of violence, of fear — and how that impacts our abilities to function on a normal, rational, reasonable basis: even something as simple as your ability to just get a normal night’s sleep over time,” he said.
Pagán speaks specifically of The Pleasant Valley War, but his words resonate with the entire history of Frontier Partisan warfare, and persist today:
“There is no great story of chivalric behavior, or right and wrong, on which to hang the themes of the Western. There were only desperate souls behaving most desperately.”