When I woke early this morning I read the whole of Marine Lieutenant Colonel Strobl's account of escorting the remains of Lance Corporal Chance Phelps back to his home town in the US having been killed in Iraq. (pointed to by David Weinberger)
I read the long piece to the end but was left feeling slightly uneasy - in fact it reminded me very much of passages from A Prayer For Owen Meany
The reasons for my unease are perfectly expressed in this section from a recent post on Laughing~Knees
But so many of the stories from the news are cloaked, as always, in the myths of “heroism” and “doing great deeds for country” and the “selflessness of the young men and women who serve our country”. I’ve read and reread the words over and over again, trying to find in myself the empathy for such abstract and fervent emotions, but, perhaps because I am not American, I just can’t look at the photo of Pat Tilman and feel that he is anything other than a young man whose death will cause suffering for those who knew him and further paints the picture of the war in Afghanistan as nothing more than an arrogant and empty fiasco that the American government has all but forgotten. I cannot find it in myself to see him as a hero. I cannot see it in myself to see anyone as a “hero”.
Why do we never see photos of the selfless deeds of volunteers who risk their lives to save victims in wars, without weapons? Why do we not see photos and hear grief and praise for Palestinians who blow themselves up in the name of saving their land from invaders? After all, their slogans and songs of patriotism sound exactly like the support for Pat Tilman from above. Both are a little blind, both see violence and revenge and bloodshed as legitimate means to righting a wrong. And neither is aware of how one-sided their dogma appears to those who stand outside their sphere of dialogue.
I would highly recommend reading the comments thread to the original post.too.