Thursday, April 19, 2007

Give Them Their Moment

I really didn't want to chime in about what happened at VA Tech, because as I've told a few folks, I'm distant -- physically and emotionally -- from it. I'm a few thousand miles away, and I didn't know anyone there. It sounds cold, but it's how it is. This of course doesn't keep me from seeing what a tragedy it was and being saddened by the course of events, but I'm not going to concentrate on that right now.

Last night I was talking to the future missez about the memorial in Hiroshima, and some common reactions that Americans have about it. As an American with knowledge of what the Japanese were up to in WWII, it was hard for me not to walk through there and roll my eyes a little bit. There's Hiroshi's tricycle, there's Sachiko's lunch box. I couldn't help but think I, as an American, was being made to feel guilty about little kids getting vaporized, knowing full well that the Japanese were running around Manchuria bayoneting babies and burying villagers alive by the thousands. I discussed this with her, and she brought up a good point. The memorial is not about Nanking, it's not about Pearl Harbor, it's not about what the extra curricular activities of the Japanese soldiers. It's not about remembering the war, it's about remembering the residents of Hiroshima who were going about their daily lives and were killed either in the blink of an eye, or worse yet, by radiation poisoning. A lot of the time I was thinking, "Why would an ethnic Korean care? The Japanese have a history of discriminating against you guys." But to her, it wasn't about politics, ethnicity, or race -- it was much simpler. The memorial is what it is, which is something to help us remember the horrors of dropping a nuclear bomb on a fully populated city. Nothing more, nothing less. I was basically politicizing it based on my own background, which takes the focus off those who lost their lives that day, who likely had nothing to do with what the Imperial Army's actions across Asia. The memorial is about giving them their moment of remembrance, which isn't a lot to ask.

This morning, my discussion with her fresh in my mind, I saw this video:



To me, what was a beautiful, powerful speech, was marred by the following addition:

We do not understand this tragedy
We know we did nothing to deserve it
But neither does a child in Africa dying of aids
Neither do the invisible children walking the night away to avoid being captured by a rogue army
Neither does the baby elephant watching his community being devastated for ivory
Neither does the Mexican child looking for fresh water
Neither does the Appalachian infant killed in the middle of night in his crib in the home its father built with his own hands being run over by a boulder because the land was destabilized


Try as I may, I can't understand why it was necessary to put that in there. It killed it for me. This was a service to remember the students that lost their lives a few days ago, not suffering in general. Yes, there is suffering in the world, but like so many people in the limelight, she used the wrong forum to express her personal views on a general subject. Comparing the suffering of the thousands directly affected by Cho Seung Hui's shooting spree to an emotionally distraught baby elephant borders on comedic absurdity. There is a time and a place to showcase the suffering of Appalachians living on unstable plots of earth, and a memorial at VA Tech seemed an inappropriate venue. Many public figures think that tragedy raises them above reproach, but I disagree. Mentioning Africans, Mexicans, Appalachians, and pachyderms draws more attention away from faces and names of the people being remembered than it does raise awareness to the unrelated suffering of anonymous symbols across the world. Ms Giovanni clearly has misplaced priorities, and cheapened an opportunity to give those students the moment they deserved.

20 Comments:

Anonymous Tony said...

Wow, Paul. Who knew you could be so eloquent?
Well done. And once again you've demonstrated a very clear point... you are marrying wwwwaaaayyy out of your league.

12:32 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

yeah, i have my moments. they're fleeting, but sometimes last long enuff to trick someone into sticking around inspite of my special brand of bullshit.

id kinda like to hear from someone who thinks that i'm totally out of line with my opinion here..

12:48 AM  
Blogger brando said...

Paul advocates the slaughter of Olipahnts, and boulders smashing babies. I knew it.


Seriously, that was a good post.

It almost sounded like that lady was trying to use 3rd person hyprocracy.

"You're a hippocrit because you're against the murder of 32 American students, while simoultaniously advocating AIDS, the ivory trade, boulder babies, mexican dirty water for kids, and invisible children."

What an odd thing to say at a memorial.

3:27 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

That's what bothered me i think. The whole sorta nuancy feeling surrounding her speech that seems to say, "How can you tell me it's inappropriate to say that stuff after what we've been through here." very sheehanish.

7:42 AM  
Blogger Travis said...

Paul- I really like your misses point of view on the memorial. The way she sees it reminds me that so many people are just living their lives, and terrible things can happen... "the horrors of dropping a nuclear bomb on a fully populated city"... something to remember and learn from for the future I hope.

11:28 PM  
Blogger Travis said...

By the way, I know this is a different, but it made me think of this: When I lived in South Carolina, I lived in Columbia where the State Capitol was. On the State Capitol they flew the Confederate flag. It was a huge deal, and it became very public with the governor race. One candidate vowed to keep it up there, one to take it down. I know there were more issues, but the governor that vowed to keep it up there won the Governor race. (And after having lived there I can say it may have had more of an impact that you think).

Anyway, a lot of people's arguments is that it is just to remember the people who fought, so they should be able to display it. I am curious, what do you think?

11:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Change the flag to those of the third reich, and say it is to to commemorate what was once a true party (political representation-wise), a party that represented the majority of a nation, the working middle class.

I still long for true representation in the Congress...

Frank W.
Chantilly, Va.

12:08 AM  
Blogger brando said...

Godwin's Law is now invoked. Fantastic job, Frank.

You broke it.

12:32 AM  
Blogger Travis said...

I never heard of Godwin's Law before, so I just looked it up. Interesting.

3:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No intention of breaking it, I was just pointing out that there are better symbols to use other than some... Like Hiro's trike or Yoshio's bento box to commemorate the people.

Frank W

5:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didnt realize that I didnt mention this: I thought this was a good blog entry, and I couldn't agree more on how some "hijack" a tragedy to bring light to other tragedies.

Didn't Jinxy graduate from VATech?

Frank W.

5:30 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

Travis-- I'm not sure about how I feel about the Confederate flag. Flying it in the south might be comparable to flying the rising sun flag in Okinawa, but not really comparable to the nuke memorials. Flags are powerful symbols -- if they weren't, people wouldn't "rally around them" or burn them. I think most of the time, people are insistent on flying the confederate flag simply because people are telling them they can't. It's more a matter of "You can't tell a Southuhnuh what to do!" more than anything else. I could be wrong tho. :p

Frank -- thanks for the comments. And yeah, Jinxy went to VA Tech (I didn't know that until yesterday)

11:42 AM  
Blogger brando said...

In bootcamp there was a racist in my plt that had a confederate flag tat on his chest.

The DI confronted him about it and he said "Um, that's a design I created myself."

3:43 PM  
Blogger Hammer said...

Nikki Giovanni has always had her agendas and been a bit of a loose cannon in general. Enough of a loose cannon that I really can't guess what her intentions really were with that speech. Agenda or not, she certainly botched an important moment.

11:09 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

brando- was that allen? didn't the DI say "what's that supposed to mean?" and then allen said "i dunno, i made it up" or something? i remember it being really funny. i think the fact that he said he "made it up" kinda made the DI a little speechless and he just moved on.

hammer -- thanks for chiming in. i was wondering what your take on it was.

11:47 PM  
Blogger brando said...

Yup, that was Allen.

And the DI was Fallago, the huge samoan guy. Fallago said something along the lines of "We don't take kindly to racism around here."

I remember the words "don't take kindly", and thought the roof was about to come down on Allen.

Not that I think that the stars and bars equates to racism, but in this particular instance, it sure did.

And he didn't invent that flag.

2:16 AM  
Blogger A Unique Alias said...

Hey Paully, why don't you show some sensitivity for pete's sake? I insist you reconsider your on pachyderms.

1:54 AM  
Blogger A Unique Alias said...

erm. + "opinion"

1:55 AM  
Blogger Travis said...

The DI confronted him about it and he said "Um, that's a design I created myself."

-That's really funny.

I think a lot of the Southhunnah's do fly it just for that rebellious reason you mentioned Paul. The last I knew SC had to take the confederate flag off the state capitol b/c NCAA college sports were going to sanction the state by not holding any post-season events there. I think they still fly it on the grounds though, just not directly on TOP of the capitol.

12:25 AM  
Anonymous stu said...

made me think of what happened here in Minnesota when Senator Wellstone died in a plane crash. Senators, Reps, and other politcians from both sides of the aisle all poured in to pay respect and attend the memorial. What should have been a tribute to a man who dedicated his life to teaching children, and serving others was turned into a circus. Sen. Tom Harkin, and Wellstones friend who spoke saw it as an opportunity to blast the current administration. Republicans attending just sat there stoneface while probably wanting to yank the mic out of Harkins hand. Even Democrates in the crowd looked confused. "should we clap in agreement? but wait were at a memorial, what do we do? Turned into a huge circus.

2:22 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home