Attention Must be Paid

The other day I read a piece by Laura Flanders in which she wondered, in the wake of Tim Russert’s death, what would happen if journalists demonstrated the same level of emotions and pain toward other deaths, asking:

I know it’s possibly a subversive thought for all those deluded believers of objectivity in journalism — and heaven forbid we challenge convention — but what if — what if — in journalism, mourning, not to mention expressing feelings, wasn’t saved up just for journalists? What then, do you think? (Link)

However, there is a deeper problem than journalistic displays of emotion and mourning relegated to the loss of journalists when it comes to questioning how the American people deal with the repercussions of war.

The deeper problem is that we, as a culture and as a nation simply don’t deal with the repercussions of this war in any real way.

Take a look at what CBS New Chief Foreign Correspondent Lara Logan has to say:

Tonight, I watched the News Hour on PBS and at saw the faces of 16 young American men who have recently died in Iraq and wondered about the fact that this “liberal” (which of course means “un-patriotic” to loud-mouthed Faux News and far Right talk radio hosts) institution, the Public Broadcasting Service, is one of the only mainstream news and media outlets bothering to honor the American men and women dying in this war.

I want to be clear, I believe that everyone killed and wounded in this war ought to be recognized and honored, not only the American soldiers but the Iraqi soldiers and civilians as well. However, it is particularly hypocritical of those wrap themselves in the flag and who have championed this war to turn a blind eye to the one cost of this war that you would expect a patriot to exam: those men and women who have died in service to their country.

If you go to the Faux News site, and search either “iraq casualty list” or “operation iraqi freedom,” you will find a list of the “Fallen Heroes of Operation Iraqi Freedom” . . . that has not been updated since September 3, 2007. If you go to the Department of Defense site, and search “iraq casualty list” you will find this pdf: Picture 1.png

And yes, you will find the various press releases that identifies US military casualties as they are confirmed, but there doesn’t seem to be a comprehensive list or page that honors the men and women who have laid down their lives in this conflict. To find a list of those names, or to put faces to those names, you have to go to sites like Zeitlangers, Iraq War Heroes, the San Francisco Chronicle, or the Washington Post. The Washington Post site is particularly powerful because it has the pictures of the 4100+ soldiers who have been killed.

I am not a very pro-military type of person and I’ll be honest, I don’t know very many people who have served. I disagree with the policies that led up to the war in Iraq and am absolutely disgusted by an administration that seems to have no real plan for peace and who has used 9/11 as an excuse to destroy a great many honorable aspects of this country. That said, attention must be paid.

Attention must be paid.

In a mediascape agog with news about the iPhone 3G, titillated by Ashlee Simpson’s Jaime Lynn Spears pregnancy, rabid for manufactured “news” that is little more than rumor, gossip and innuendo; in a culture that plays at patriotism through fancy tv graphics and flag pins, all the while busily burying its head in partisanship and sniping and name-calling, it is even more important that we find ways to pay attention to the real news, the real sacrifices, the real costs of war.

So I have decided to read aloud and record all of the names of those who have died in Operation Iraqi Freedom as well as in Operation Enduring Freedom. A rough estimate puts the time it would take to read all the names at six hours. I’m not 100% positive of how that reading and recording will occur, but I’m leaning toward trying to find a theatre space and inviting a number of people to help read the list with me. If you have other ideas or suggestions or would like to be involved, or have an “in” with a theatre space in the NYC area, please get in touch with me. I am thinking about performing the reading on July 4th or July 8th. As this project develops, I will post here with further details.

[Update: It looks like July 5th may be a better date.]

On this day..

One thought on “Attention Must be Paid

  1. I appreciate the sentiment – it is, of course, pretty much identical to what drives me to maintain Zeitlangers.

    Yes, Attention Must Be Paid.

    I get quite a few contacts from families, and it is painfully evident that their perception is that, in general, attention is NOT being paid.

    A couple of other activites of interest:

    Just a couple of minor clarifications: The WaPo site, while nearly the most comprehensive, is less so than Zeitlangers. I can say that with confidence, because I link to all their pictures unless I can find better, which is the case for quite a few. The MilitaryTimes newspapers maintain a very good site.

    It is particularly good because they copy newspaper articles and post them – so even when the original article gets archived by the hometown paper, it is still there on their site. They are generally up-to-date within a few days. I have links to their site as well as WaPo and whatever else I can find.

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