An anonymous reader of this blog left this comment today:
"Yet more pious war death porn for the Heartland this Sunday morning..."I'm guessing this person was referring to two stories that ran on Weekend Edition Sunday. The first was about Justin Rollins, a 22-year-old from Newport, N.H., recently killed in Iraq by a roadside bomb. The second story was a longer piece on three young men killed in Iraq who all were from one small town in Delaware.
I listened to these pieces and they were filled with the usual patriotic cliches that continue to lure young people to join in, kill for, and die in causes like the war in Iraq that have nothing to do with defending our country, spreading freedom, or protecting democracy. In the first piece it is reported (with no since of the tragic irony) how according to one teacher, this young man "was apathetic about academics but he had strong opinions in class debates, especially on the right to bear arms....[and] also voiced his support for the war in Iraq." From another teacher we hear how the military transformed the young man "from a pudgy unfocused teenager to a trim handsome soldier who’d outgrown being average…"
In the second story, Liane Hansen mainly conveys how loyal and patriotic small towns are. The city manager of Seabrook insists that "the town remains extremely supportive of the war and the President," while the mayor seconds that notion, telling us his town "has really supported the war, and it makes you proud that we did have three that did give their lives for a good cause."
These stories left me shaking my head and yet thinking a lot about the sorrow of friends and families of those killed and maimed in Iraq (Americans and Iraqis). I actually can sympathize with the quandary that reporting on individual American losses might present for radio news. Let's face it; it's probably the minority of people- the Sheehans and Tomas Youngs of the world - who have lost someone in the war or been wounded and yet are willing to call this war the sham and crime that it is.
So what could NPR do? I actually appreciate the silent tribute that the Lehrer Hour on PBS offers for US soldiers killed (although a photo tribute to Iraqis killed would be humane too). I think NPR ought to simply read the names, hometowns, and survivors of those killed in Iraq (and they could do the same for Iraqi civilians for balance). Otherwise we end up with the schlock of Liane Hansen saying (as Albinoni's Adagio opens in the background) "In the history of American wars small towns have always borne the brunt of loss (music begins). Bedford, Virginia lost 19 in the first hour of the Normandy landing in World War II. During the Vietnam War 5 young men from Bardstown, Kentucky died in one night when their firebase was overrun. Seaford is a small town in a small state. Delaware has 644 men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan; today the death toll stands at 15."