Trivialized Tribute To The Dead
Nightline and Doonesbury have both once again issued lists of the war dead for Memorial Day. I have seen the Nightline presentation of war dead names before, and it is a well-produced tribute. I have not seen what Gary Trudeau's Doonesbury tribute looks like, but using the cartoon as a medium for such a weighty subject will automatically trivialize it no matter how well drawn it is. And Trudeau is not known for his drafting skills.
Though the Nightline treatment of the war dead is invariably tasteful, thoughtful and properly reserved, in the end it really is a tasteless gesture. Double for Trudeau.
It is as if the dead were all that mattered in this affair, and that the goals of the administration are of no consequence. This is not about the dead, it is about a future that the dead sacrificed themselves to build. During World War II the public and the media kept their eyes focused on the goals, shed a tear for the dead and moved along. They knew the dead would castigate them for dwelling too long on their loss at the expense of the goal they died for. To do anything else is to waste the sacrifice.
The subtext of such memorials, as if it were scrolling like subtitles below the image, is "were it not for a misguided/greedy/manipulative White House, this person would be alive now." One can almost imagine Ted Koppel closing the show with an admonishment - "how many more of these shows do I have to do before america comes to its senses?"
Trudeau says "there is power in seeing actual names instead of numbers. Honor rolls always help deepen our understanding of what has been lost."
I have never counted myself among those who needed a reminder, or a deeper understanding, of our nation's loss. Reading about the loss of the anonymous '2 marines killed' or '1 national guardsman injured' always did send a twinge of anguish through me. These are my neighbors - or they could be. They were guys I went to high school with. I always wonder about what they lost when they died - their families, their plans, their aspirations.
Who are these people that Koppel and Trudeau think need reminding? Do they think that it will suddenly dawn upon a great swath of the american public that americans are really dying over there! Wow, I had no idea! Or do they think that americans consider the Iraq casualties as just some new form of regrettable DUI statistic that is unavoidable in this modern world? Perhaps in the circles they travel in, no one expresses regret or admiration for the war dead. Indeed some of them probably express elitist disdain for 'suckers' like Pat Tillman. But among red-state americans there is no need to 'remind' oneself of the fallen - they are taken to heart. A lack of outward bereavement does not mean the bereavement does not exist.
Speaking of bereavement, I have a question for Koppel and Doonesbury: come September 11, can we count on a recitation of the names of the World Trade Center victims?