Friday, December 17, 2004
Vincent blogs: Steven Vincent, author of "In the Red Zone," has an excellent piece on his blog on the "Politics of Grief."
Photography—the visual media in general—is ill-suited for conveying the abstract thoughts and concepts that provide context for images. The once-living soldier’s face, the flag-draped coffin, the brave war widow make us feel profound worlds of grief, but beyond that grief there is no narrative, no meaning. Like a fetish, the image constantly returns attention to itself.
Opponents of the war know this. They seek to decouple the conflict in Iraq from a larger narrative that might provide meaning to soldiers’ deaths. Lacking their own narrative (during Vietnam, they claimed participation in global anti-imperialism; today, they are reduced to “No Blood for Oil”), they focus on images of sorrow and loss with accusatory, prosecutorial, intent. See? These are the costs of your war. They are right, of course. And thousands of grieving Americans, for whom no concept of duty or pro patria or “democratizing the Middle East” justifies their loss, agree.
And yet I wonder what effect the Left’s politicization of grief will have on our soldiers and, more importantly, suffering families. Politics are by nature one-sided, and to use America’s sorrow as an attack on the Bush Administration is to transform that sorrow into an instrument of outrage. When the guns fall silent, and the protesters move to other causes, outrage, too, fades away. Leaving the bereaved with--what?
Read the whole thing. And have I mentioned that you should buy his book?