Monday, February 16, 2009

Rumors of their deaths were not greatly exaggerated

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, an evil emperor decreed that there could be no evidence shown of a war he'd begun with the help of a team of bumbling illusionists. It wasn't that he actually thought people were so stupid as to think the war only had casualties on one side, but that evidence of casualties on his side could erode the already-thin support for his war. The emperor knew about semiotic relationships: symbols evoke narratives, and narratives shape reality. Thus:

Military caskets = dead soldiers = Vietnam = failure = unsupportable cause = resistance

So insistent was the emperor on maintaining an illusion of success that when one air freight employee named Tami Silicio took a photo of a cargo plane full of flag-draped dead soldiers military coffins in 2004, not only was she fired from her job instantly, but her husband was fired too.

Now, you might be thinking that the evil emperor was a certain country & western wannabe in the White House who thought invading Iraq would be a great idea for a hit single, but actually, it was his pops. The official military ban on dead soldiers military caskets in the media was imposed in 1991, not 2004; i.e. Desert Storm, not Iraqi Freedom. But no matter, because the current White House is now thinking that after nearly 20 years, it might be time to stop playing let's-pretend with the American people (and the world), and to let photos of dead soldiers military caskets exist openly.

Tami Silicio thinks this is a good idea, since all she ever wanted to do was show a friend, via email, how much care and respect the soldiers' bodies military caskets received when they were loaded onto cargo planes. The friend was so impressed by the respect that she sent the photo to the Seattle newspaper. The newspaper was so impressed that it published the photo on the front page, and then Tami Silicio's employers were so doubly impressed that they fired her and her husband — the military-industrial equivalent of "fuck you and the horse you rode in on."

Meanwhile, HBO is preparing to premiere Taking Chance, a movie about the cross-country journey of the body casket of Marine Lance Corporal Chance Phelps, escorted by another Marine and encountered by hundreds of average citizens along the journey. But if bodies caskets were officially banned from viewing, then how did those average citizens even know what was being escorted to its resting place? And why did the United States Marine Corps give permission for a film to be made about a casket fallen soldier receiving deep reverence and respect as it he returned home?

And how is WB supposed to keep track of what gets redacted here when the redactions are interchangeable depending on the context, in one more case of hegemony trying to dictate multiple rules of engagement at once? It's all too confusing, so while "the system" figures out what it wants, we'll just share a photo.


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