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How would you interpret this sentence?

The captain waited, then said, “What, you’ve given up?”
“No.”
“Not what it looks like.”
“It’s different out there now.”
“No it’s not. You’re different.”
“No one cares.”
“So what?”
“I don’t know how to live out there anymore.”
“Hmmm . . . I was well acquainted with that idea back when it was just called cowardice. Have you seen the doctors?”
“Yeah, I saw them.”

How would you interpret this sentence: I was well acquainted with that idea back when it was just called cowardice.?
PS: the captain was talking to an ex-soldier who had gotten back home from the Army recently.
Thanks!

For learning: English
Base language: English
Category: Culture

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    Best Answer - Chosen by the Asker
    In this scene, the soldier says "I don't know how to live out there anymore," to which the captain responds: "I was well acquainted with that idea back when it was just called cowardice."

    There are two things going on here: (1) The captain is explaining to the veteran that he knows what the ex-solider is going through - the feeling of not knowing how to live "normally" in American society anymore. This explains why the ex-captain says "I'm well acquainted with the idea."

    (2) At the same time, this feeling of not knowing how to live in the US anymore - it was just called "cowardice" in the past - because a man was supposed to endure the war, come out undamaged, and reintegrate into US society after returning home. However, in America today, there is an "illness," a "diagnosis" for everything that is anything but full normality. So what people used to call cowardice before now has a medical diagnosis, a medical name, such as "PTSD - post-traumatic stress disorder." So the captain is saying that (1) he knows what the solider is feeling, and (2) that feeling used to be called 'cowardice' but now has a fancy medical name such as PTSD.

    My interpretation: He stating he is familiar to what he is going through. He has experienced the same as him in the past. He is also implying that when he experienced this it was just called cowardice and possibly now it is called something else or more.

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