November 11, 2008

What is the difference between a war memorial and a war protest?

Today is Veterans Day, a time to honor all military veterans. It is not, I think, a day to protest war.

Yesterday, I was driving along the Speedway, the road between 2 cemeteries here in Madison. (Here's a picture I took of the area, last December in snow and fog.) Along one side of the road, there was a display of fake tombstones, each about 2 feet tall, lined up in rows of 3 or 4, with signs at intervals saying either "Iraq" or "Afghanistan" and a year from the period of the wars. The tombstones between the signs represented the number who had died in the war in that country, in that year. It takes quite a few seconds to drive past the thousands of markers.

Is this a memorial or is it a war protest? And if it is a war protest, is it offensive -- either because it is next to the cemetery (I'm sure permission was given for the large display), because it appropriates the deaths of men and women (who did not consent to be used in a war protest and may very well have believed in the cause they fought for), or because it has been put up for Veterans Day (an occasion for honoring veterans, not expressing the opinion that the cause they fought for was unworthy)?

58 comments:

David said...

It's a protest, because it focuses only on Iraq and Afghanistan. It's also pointless and condescending. As if we are not aware of the deaths.

Sofa King said...

I think it's probably appropriate. Veteran's Day, after all, was originally Armistice Day. Part of the point of the day was to remember just why it is that we seek peace.

Is the display so different from what is happening today in Flander's fields?

Maguro said...

Sounds like a war protest and yes, it is offensive for both of the reasons you listed.

Find another day to stage your lame hippie protests.

Jimmy said...

It's emotionally exploitative, because it only shows the deaths, but does not enter into the morality of the war. Or why the war is wrong.

The message is, if somebody dies, then it's wrong. Which is a nice stance, but totally unrealistic.

Hoosier Daddy said...

I want to know if Obama supporters will stand for any agreement with the Iraqis that has our troops there until 2012.

The constant bombardment of commercials he had here in Indiana were all about ending the war and bringing the boys and girls home.
I don't see why that can't be accomplished by June '09 at the latest.

I certainly hope Cindy Sheehan & Co. holds Obama to his word.

MadisonMan said...

From my inbox yesterday:

Last night around 10pm someone removed 4 large signs we installed at the beginning of the Memorial Mile. I surprised that person (from afar) during the act and he disappeared into the cemetery darkness. This morning I was able to find the signs, which were hidden at the back of the cemetery and along the golf course pines, and re-installed them in their proper place.

If you are aware of any damage to the display during the week, or theft of signage, I would appreciate a phone call. Veterans for Peace will follow-up with the police (who have been officially informed of this display approved by the Parks Commission.)

Ricardo said...

"It is not, I think, a day to protest war."

I agree. But it is also not a day to "glorify war". We live in a culture which has turned war into a video game, without giving it (and the soldiers) real respect. War is not something to be desired, or to be praised. It is basically what happens when proper conduct between peoples fails, and goes over the edge into a horror story. So yes, let's honor veterans today, but let's do so with tears in our eyes, and sadness in our hearts.

Simon said...

Ann:
"if it is a war protest, is it offensive ... because it appropriates the deaths of men and women (who did not consent to be used in a war protest and may very well have believed in the cause they fought for)...."

An ancillary question: Is it the appropriation of the soldiers' deaths for a cause they opposed that's offensive, or the scale on which it's being done in this instance? If not the latter, why isn't it equally offensive for Cindy Sheehan, for example, to appropriate and trade on the death of her son, who certainly did not consent to be used in a war protest and almost certainly believed in the cause he fought for and reenlisted to go back and fight for again?

Meade said...
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Meade said...

All I know is, in what many would consider to be THE quintessential protest song, "Blowin' In the Wind," Bob Dylan, after having appropriated the song from the old Negro spiritual, "No More Auction Block," asks the question: "...how many years can some people exist before they're allowed to be free?"

The answer to that is not just blowing in the wind. It is: how ever many years it takes until enough brave men and women rise up in arms, put their own lives at risk for the purpose of gaining or preserving the freedom of others, and say, "You'll have to go through me."

Thank you Ruth Anne, Drill Sgt., and every one of the millions of heros who have acted when called upon so that the rest of us are allowed to be free.

Darcy said...

Thank you Ruth Anne, Drill Sgt., and every one of the millions of heros who have acted when called upon so that the rest of us are allowed to be free.

Amen.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.
And your families, too.

laura said...

The display is actually on my way to and from work, so I have seen it a couple times, now.

If it makes us stop and pause, I'm all for that. Thoughtful introspection, personally and collectively, is good for the soul.

AllenS said...

As a veteran, a simple thank you would be appreciated. It never is that simple. Someone always has to remind me that people are protesting war.

MadisonMan said...

In honor of Veteran's Day, I plan to read The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club tonight.

Some additions to the description. The fake tombstones are in lines of 5, and there are Wisconsin flags flying from some of them, to denote the Wisconsin deaths. It is really very minimalist and moving. And it makes you think.

FWIW, the people setting it up all had grey hair and looked grandparently (I drove by during set-up).

At 11 today I will observe the customary minute of silence. I recall doing this in elementary school, but rather doubt it's still done today. History does march on. Here's to the Veterans!

SGT Ted said...

No one knows more than a serviceman the horrors of war. No one prays for peace more, because it means long separations from family and the prospect of coming home in a box.

This is a day to honor the service of Veterans and you honor it by respecting them and not by trotting out bullshit political statements against war. Because sometimes war is necessary and it's the Vets who pay the heaviest price.

Which is the point of today.

Not O! not Biden. Not Pelosi.

Vets.

Today.

Meade said...
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SGT Ted said...

And Memorial Day is the day to honor our dead. This day is to honor the living.

Sofa King said...

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

— Lt.-Col. John McCrae

Original George said...

Why the Free World Fights

"We still are at the beginning of the way. The Americans have still not tasted from our hands what we have tasted from theirs. The [number of] killed in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were no more than fair exchange for the ones killed in the Al-'Amiriya shelter in Iraq, and are but a tiny part of the exchange for those killed in Palestine, Somalia, Sudan, the Philippines, Bosnia, Kashmir, Chechnya, and Afghanistan."

"America is the head of heresy in our modern world, and it leads an infidel democratic regime that is based upon separation of religion and state and on ruling the people by the people via legislating laws that contradict the way of Allah and permit what Allah has prohibited. This compels the other countries to act in accordance with the same laws in the same ways… and punishes any country [that rebels against these laws] by besieging it, and then by boycotting it. By so doing, [America] seeks to impose on the world a religion that is not Allah's…"

"America, with the collaboration of the Jews, is the leader of corruption and the breakdown [of values], whether moral, ideological, political, or economic corruption. It disseminates abomination and licentiousness among the people via the cheap media and the vile curricula."

"America is the reason for all oppression, injustice, licentiousness, or suppression that is the Muslims' lot. It stands behind all the disasters that were caused and are still being caused to the Muslims; it is immersed in the blood of Muslims and cannot hide this."

"We have not reached parity with them. We have the right to kill 4 million Americans - 2 million of them children - and to exile twice as many and wound and cripple hundreds of thousands. Furthermore, it is our right to fight them with chemical and biological weapons, so as to afflict them with the fatal maladies that have afflicted the Muslims because of the [Americans'] chemical and biological weapons."

Al-Qaeda spokesman Suleiman abu-Geith in June 2002

TMink said...

To think that fighting or military video games glorify war is to miss the point entirely. Those video games tap into the warrior archtype of those who play them. Jung spoke of the Warrior within as our hardwiring for agency, struggle, and if absolutely necesary, deadly force.

The Warrior is the mature archtype, while the Hero is the immature version. The Hero runs into battle without thought of the odds or situation. He is romantic and besot with his role. Because of his immaturity, he is either killed or wounded.

But the wound is transformative, the would turns the Hero into the warrior. Warriors count the cost, they abhor war, and because of that they are equipped to wage it.

The video games, if correctly done, show the difference between the immature and mature approach to physical conflict and help boys access their warrior without being physically wounded. A few rounds of playing Halo and getting killed quickly help people to learn tactics and count the costs.

There are two shadows of the arrior, the overactive Sadist and the underactive Masochist. People who are working out of their Masochist are afraid of Warrior and their own strength. They get pushed around, their family gets pushed around, and there is much misery because of their failure to stand and fight.

See Neville Chamberlain for a perfect Masochist.

Trey

Meade said...

SGT Ted said...
"This day is to honor the living."

Indeed.

ricpic said...

Why do I always sense more insult than protest in the Left's attitude toward the military?

al said...

My first job out of college was at a hospital. My group was attached to the facilities maintenance department which was heavily populated with Vietnam veterans as well as a few Korean War vets. We had every thing was regular soldiers to a Green Beret to a SeeBee to a much decorated Air Force fighter pilot. An interesting group. There were a few of us (about 20%) that had not served so on Veterans Day, when the Veterans had the day off with pay, we had to carry the load. No bitching - just do the work. Similar to (but in no way equal to) what we ask those who wear the uniform to do.

Veterans Day is a day to honor those who have served. Like Memorial Day it is not one for protest.

To all those who have served I offer up two simple words:

Thank You.

Bissage said...

People who spend their time making and planting a bunch of fake tombstones for Veterans Day are really trying to make friends and garner respect.

In some social circles it’s like counting coup.

That’s okay.

It’s best for everyone if sophomoric assholes like that waste their time.

rhhardin said...

I like Andy Rooney's take on it.

He's against the professionalization of veterans. Veterans already got what they deserve, namely a free country.

SGT Ted said...

Andy Rooney is an asshole.

Darcy said...

Andy Rooney is an asshole.

Wow, no kidding. I didn't think he could be more of an asshole than I already thought he was.

Arturius said...

I would like to suggest that on Veterans Day, all local, state and Federal workers and bank employees be required to go to work veterans given the day off.

Let's just say that would be one of my first Executive Decisions.

TosaGuy said...

As a vet, all I want today is for people to fly their flag.

Protests are all about the people doing the protesting. How are you honoring someone else when your action is all about you?

ricpic said...

Counting Coup: the recounting of stories about battle exploits. Derived from the Plains Indians striking a blow against the enemy. Most prestigious was to touch the enemy with the hand or with a coup stick and escape unharmed.

For those, like me, who didn't know what the term meant.

Ann Althouse said...

MadisonMan said: "It is really very minimalist and moving."

I think the large lettered signs are insufficiently minimalist and detract from the solemnity of the tombstones.

"FWIW, the people setting it up all had grey hair and looked grandparently..."

It's worth nothing to me that these people are old. Peace demonstrations in Madison tend to be dominated by aging Baby Boomers. I don't patronize them because of their age. They are responsible for what they do and say.

William said...

We no longer throw widows on the suttee, sell slaves, fight duels. Perhaps making war will someday be part of mankind's barbaric past. But the people we are presently at war with represent mankind's barbaric past.

Paul said...

Is this a memorial or is it a war protest? And if it is a war protest, is it offensive...?

Sorry Ann, but "Duh!" seems appropriate here. OF COURSE it's a protest -- a "lame hippie protest" to quote maguro. And seeing as this is Madison, where I too live, I would go so far as to call it JUST ANOTHER ASSERTION OF PRIVILEGE BY SELFISH BABY BOOMER HIPPIES. Madison is where they come to die, you know...

Hector Owen said...

Michael Moore has picked up the local video coverage. This is clearly local news coverage, but there'a a credit line "Produced by: Michael Moore."

MadisonMan said...

I ignored the signs. Especially the advertisements at the beginning (the 'Brought to you by...' type things).

Seeing row upon row of tombstones is striking. My first thought when I saw it being put up over the weekend was that is was sort of abortion protest -- probably because of the age of the installers. Most anti-war protests -- and I do consider this an anti-war protest/installation -- are driven by people younger than I am.

MadisonMan said...

I liked watching the linked video -- it includes David Couper, Madison's Police Chief from 1972 to 1993, who is now an Episcopal Priest.

TMink said...

I think that the protest kind of misses the point.

Putting up fake headstones in an actual cemetary ignores the gestalt.

Fake headstones in the median would be a better symbol.

The protesters also miss the point in that many of us believe that there are things worth dying for. That we know and have counted the cost, and reluctantly still endorse the action.

Trey

Arturius said...

The protesters also miss the point in that many of us believe that there are things worth dying for.

They've been missing the point for decades. I those weekly nuclear disarmament protests back in the
'80s which the recurring theme of Better Dead than Red.

The Drill SGT said...

I think that Old non-PC imperialist said it well in Tommy

I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here."
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:
O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play.

I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but 'adn't none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-'alls,
But when it comes to fightin', Lord! they'll shove me in the stalls!
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, wait outside";
But it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide,
The troopship's on the tide, my boys, the troopship's on the tide,
O it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide.

Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;
An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit.
Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, 'ow's yer soul?"
But it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll.

We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;
While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, fall be'ind",
But it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind,
There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,
O it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind.

You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;
An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool -- you bet that Tommy sees!

Hoosier Daddy said...

I was always fond of this one by Big Country
"Where the Rose is Sown"

We're at war…All the papers say
We will win…I read today
We are strong…It wasn't us
We are right…Who started this
Leave your work…I just left school
Leave your home…I am no fool
Take up arms…It left me strong
Sound alarms…The school bell rings
Sons of men who stand like gods
We give life to feed the cause
And run to ground our heathen foe
Our name will never die
This time will be forever
Join up here…I wave good-bye
We need you…Oh my breast sighs
Have no fear…Now I must try
God will be…With braver men
Take the vow…I know it's right
Praise the flag…The good fight
We're at war…I'm on my way
We will win…Why do I pray
Sons of men who stand like gods
We give life to feed the cause
And run to ground our heathen foe
Our name will never die
This time will be forever
I wait here in this hole
Playing poker with my soul
I hold the rifle close to me
It lights the way to keep me free
If I die in a combat zone
Box me up and ship me home
If I die and still come home
Lay me where the rose is sown
Sons of men who stand like gods
We give life to feed the cause
And run to ground our heathen foe
Our name will never die
This time will be forever

BJM said...

bissage:People who spend their time making and planting a bunch of fake tombstones for Veterans Day are really trying to make friends and garner respect.

Exactly, if these people were truly concerned they would be volunteering at Veteran hospitals and military support/out reach programs not mocking their service.

To all who have served; thank you.

Synova said...

So yes, let's honor veterans today, but let's do so with tears in our eyes, and sadness in our hearts.

Puke.

Gack.

former law student said...

Is this a memorial or is it a war protest?

Can it be both? In the British Empire, from 1917 on, today has been Remembrance Day, a day to remember the sacrifice of members of the armed forces during war. The display reminds us of those who gave the last full measure during the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars -- we don't have to agree with the politics of those who set up the display to honor the sacrifice of the war dead.

Armistice Day has been repurposed as Veterans' Day: The Brits commemorate those who gave their lives; already having a Memorial Day, we Americans honor the sacrifice of those who survived military service.

s1c said...

Personally, as a Veteran I find it offensive, which means that if I lived in Madison I would find another route but last time I looked offending someone is not a crime.

Still, I wonder if the pro-choice people would allow pro-life people to put up gravestones outside of an abortion clinic for a week?

Beth said...

Today in class we read Henry's St. Crispian Day speech, followed by Wilfred Owen's Dulce et Decorum Est.

John Lynch said...

Soldiers don't die to be used as props.

Protest theatre is tone deaf, and shows no empathy with the soldiers that died.

When most war protest has become the realm of the anti-everything left, it's even more distasteful that the names of soldiers who fought and died for ideals that the protesters themselves scorn are exploited for cheap points. This is a generalization, but that's who I see in the media. I don't see reasonable folks on the news, but I do see weird people in pink outfits fooling with paper mache puppets.

In my mind it's like the abortion protest signs with dead fetuses. Street protesters are mostly attention whores.

ron st.amant said...

For those who are offended: What if you found out this was placed by Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan as a reminder to honor not just veterans of past wars, but wars that are still in progress...would you still be offended?

The fact that it leaves room for interpretation makes it valid for me...if it makes you consider the idea of war and sacrifice in contravention to your own bias then it has made a point.

Synova said...

"Tommy" certainly says it well, still today.

People who think they "support the troops" while portraying them as poor victims and who really do see no value in military service can only insult, no matter what they do.

Synova said...

For those who are offended: What if you found out this was placed by Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan as a reminder to honor not just veterans of past wars, but wars that are still in progress...would you still be offended?

But... it wasn't.

And it couldn't be.

Because it's very like wanting to take pictures of dead soldiers, to take pictures of caskets, to treat it all as a spectacle. And if you want to get military people really and truly disgusted with you, down right furiously angry, you'd do some crap like that.

Veterans wouldn't DO that, with the exception of the odd twisted Murtha-esque outlier, and would know what sort of response they'd get.

People who want to honor those people who have served put little flags in the ground, or they go to their *real* grave... because dead people have *real* graves, because they were *real* people who deserve dignity.

Synova said...

Is the display so different from what is happening today in Flander's fields?

Yes.

Cedarford said...

Original George said...
Why the Free World Fights:
(2 pages of Statements of a pissant Muslim terror spokesman from a group of 20,000 threatening 2 billion other, better-armed people)


Sorry George, just as irrelevant to Veteran's day as anti-war fake cemeteries.

I agree with Al. Veteran's Day is about Veterans, not about fake cemeteries that fixate on only the small portion of Vets who actually die in war. Nor of the politics of anti-War or anti-Islamofascist armchair warriors on why soldiers and Vets happen do do what they do.

As Al said, we honor those who served on Veteran's day and Memorial Day. It shouldn't be about politics.

It also shouldn't be about believing only those who died in combat or were a POW made the only sacrifices or meaningful contributions.

A friend helped create the diversion of 3 Iraqi battalions to a beach head where US Marines never arrived and helped armor to the west penetrate the flank. The diversion cost no lives, no casualties, and was done by 5 guys sitting in a tent with AC humming pumping it out on radio frequencies we knew the Iraqis had, but sweating it hard to not make the feint look obvious. No "heroes" died. But it was a huge contribution towards winning the Gulf War.

Thats also the kind of guy we honor on Vets Day. Or the guy I knew from Vietnam missing a lung from a VC mortar attack. Or the nurse who lived in carnage and stench in a WWI or WWII hospital. Or the guy who never got within 4,000 miles of the enemy, but was training the ones who did on sanitation and footgear maintence every bit as important to an Army as rifle upkeep and cleaning....

That's Veterans Day. Not just the small number of those who served were KIA or POW.

That's Memorial Day too, which is not just about the battlefield dead, but also those who served and won or lost with honor, a significant minority wounded or sacrificing in great hardship, some who even had it "easy" - then passed as all who served in all our national conflicts do.

Leftists who don't understand this and think it is a great day to protest all the "wasted lives" miss the point of honor, duty, and most who served did not die, but did their part for the country.

And it is missed as well by right-wing triumphalists who sometimes voice big regrets that others (but never themselves) are missing out on "other great wars we could have had, noble causes" that would make so many foreign people grateful to us..

blake said...

So yes, let's honor veterans today, but let's do so with tears in our eyes, and sadness in our hearts.

Do we have to get weepy? How about a steely pride?

holdfast said...

Almost all war memorials or memorial services are intrinsically anti-war (just as any good war movie is intrinsically anti-war), at least the way they are done today in the western world. If you cannot grasp the awfulness of war and its terrible consequencess from seeing the eyes (and not seeing missing hands) of the Veterans, then you simply have no capacity for empathy. There is no need to beat people over the head with Code Pink signs to make this point.

I would also note that in the US this is Veterans Day, which is supposed to be a thank you to living vets - Memorial Day is a different date. In the UK, Canada, Australia etc they combine those functions in Remembrance Day, held today - a thank you for the living and a remembrance of the fallen.

Synova said...

I just really looooove the idea of someone viewing a veteran (me) with sadness in their heart and tears in their eyes.

I don't often identify myself that way, however, since I never served in a war zone, despite serving during a war and despite serving in a location where American military were targeted and killed while unarmed and in civies.

The Drill SGT said...

a couple of comments:

1. Beth said...
Today in class we read Henry's St. Crispian Day speech,


I love that speech. Some of the classic words in the English tongue. Do you use either of the classic films? Oliver or Branagh? One is clearly pro-war and the other somewhat anti-war using the same material.

2. former law student said...
Is this a memorial or is it a war protest?

Can it be both?


In theory yes, but in application we all know that this was disrespectful, implying that those who died, did so because Bush lied, etc.

TMink said...

s1c wrote: "Still, I wonder if the pro-choice people would allow pro-life people to put up gravestones outside of an abortion clinic for a week?"

Where would you put them all? In Tennessee alone 17,000 babies are killed a year. The antiwar protesters had what, 4,000? Total? A pittance.

Trey

Synova said...

There have been pro-life demonstrations with lots and lots of little crosses.

I'm pretty sure no one mistook it as a demonstration in favor of abortion.

TMink said...

We agree Synova, my point is the huge discrepancy in the number lost in Iraq and Afghanistan and the number lost to abortion. It is not a fair comparison. In 2005, there were 1.21 million abortions in the US.

Trey