Is This Really the Best We Can Do?

6 thoughts on “Is This Really the Best We Can Do?”

  1. I did not know Petty Officer Miranda, but when he fell I stood in formation in my own location in Iraq. I remember how he fell, and it’s odd to find this here.

    I lived in England for three years. There isn’t a crossroad in England that doesn’t have a cenotaph or monument, usually by the village church, with the names of the Great Fallen inscribed on them. Often whole generations of men with the same name. They are very, very sobering.

    In the small town I grew up in there were monuments to those who fell in the Civil War, and those who fell in the Great War. They are oddly pushed aside these days, the town has moved away from them, but they once were right on the playgrounds.

    This same small town had an exceptional young man, perhaps six years younger than me (hard to think he’d be retired by now). You know about him, he volunteered to be in that second helicopter that was shot down in Mogadishu, the story told in Blackhawk Down. The state named the highway from my town to Lewiston, Maine, the Staff Sergeant Thomas Fields Memorial Highway, in his honor. Somalis dragged his burnt body through the streets, you’ve seen the video. And Lewiston, once a major manufacturing mill town? Now it houses thousands of Somalis, and the town is renamed Mogadishu, and they are rapidly turning it into a copy of the city in Somalia.

    I enjoy your blog very much. Please continue.

  2. Here in the UK, we have cenotaphs in pretty much every village and town centre, dedicated to those who lost their lives in the world wars. It’s generally a statue of a soldier, with a plaque listing the names of those from the town who died in each war. If we chose to memorialise those from our towns who have lost their lives in modern wars, we would probably erect a plaque by it.

    Do American towns have something similar? Is it that a lot of them lack a recognisable centre where such a thing could be erected?

    1. The town depicted in this blog post is in New Jersey and was founded by British colonists before the American Revolution. It had (past tense) a red brick town center along the river that anyone in the U.K. would immediately recognize as High Street with a lovely old protestant church and some row houses with corner shops next to City Hall. That was systematically dismantled and replaced with car parks and such after World War II. Scraps of the town remain, but it resembles a suburban office estate these days.

      There are traditional bronze plaques there – most recently one in front of the justice complex to commemorate the events of 9/11 listing the few local bankers and lawyers who perished in the towers. But the roadside posts depicting fallen local soldiers are somehow more in keeping with the place since no one goes downtown unless they are required to serve jury duty or get their drivers license renewed. The regional shopping mall would be the next best “center” but corporate property managers are shy about anything with a political or religious connotation. They prefer abstract “plop art” that makes no statement at all other than, “This is a quality establishment” with a nice bit of twisted steel on a plinth out on the front lawn.

  3. Well, they died for nothing (or for lies and theft, if you prefer), so statues in their honor make no sense…. either say nothing about their military “service”, or donate to anti-war organizations in their name.

    I think we know these aren’t war heroes; they’re victims of unnecessary, insane warmongering. Perhaps memorializing them the same way me memorialize people killed by insane pro-car, anti-human traffic policy actually makes sense.

  4. Cost is probably one of the main factors behind putting those kinds of signs and banners as memorials. Bronze statues in more “appropriate” places are expensive and likely require a more extensive trip through the bureaucratic labyrinth. I agree that some of the locations seem dismal and are reflective of the culture in general. On the other hand, roadside memorials have a long history—typically you see them for people killed in traffic accidents, often on the spot the person perished (one of my own family members is memorialized in this fashion). In a way, I think that might be the spirit behind it.

  5. Quite powerful description of how the military is fetishized while the country they fight for is hollowed out into a shell. James Howard Kunstler had similar comments in his Ted Talk

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