The Thing I Like About …

Battleship: the part where the veteran decides he’s only half a man.

In Battleship, Mick Canales (played by Gregory D. Gadson) is a Lt. Colonel who, during war, lost both legs above the knee. He has some understandable bitterness and anger about this loss. He works to incorporate prosthetic legs into his life, but it’s a challenge he’s not too eager to face. At one point, he tells his physical therapist that there’s no point to things because he’s only “half a man”.

And my heart broke.

I can’t address how it feels to lose a limb. I’ve been upset about losing a parking space. I certainly can’t comment on the anger or bitterness of someone who has faced actual loss, who can’t do the things he once did. I don’t know what it’s like to have to make such an enormous adjustment to what I can do or where I can go, or to the plans I had for my life. I do know what it’s like to attach a lot of identity to appearance … and how painful that can be. And I know this:

He is NOT half a man.

Our bodies are here to carry us around. If we take care of them, they mostly take care of us. And now more than ever, if we need a mechanical bit to replace a biological bit, science can make that happen for us. And deep down we know that. Deep down we know that, if the technology existed, we could reduce ourselves down to being a head in a jar … because we aren’t our bodies. What we think of as “us” isn’t in our legs, or our kidneys, or our hair.

Can life become so burdensome that it isn’t worth living? I think it certainly can. Can the challenges our bodies face leave us so far from strength and health that every moment is painful and the only solution is to let life go? Yes, I think so. … But if a person in that situation chooses to leave this earth, it is a whole person leaving, no matter how much of his or her body is still around at that moment.

It wasn’t that I faulted Mick for being angry or bitter or hopeless (who am I to fault him for anything?). It was that I knew he wasn’t only half a man, and I didn’t want him to think that. Live or die, we’re each of us a whole person – with different bodies, different pain, different hopes, different fates – and we are always as much as we need to be, and we always matter as much. The inner space where we are can never be changed by the material world, and our value can never be less.

There’s no such thing as half a person.


… if you would like to learn more about Gregory D. Gadson, click here.

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