The Final Salute: A tribute to the Subjugation of women in this War

•April 28, 2008 • Leave a Comment

These photographs by Todd Heisler et al are a misleading form of production. They attempt a sort of hyper-humanization of the American side by creating empathy through the absence of a person and subsequent displacement of that loss onto an object (a coffin, a flag, etc). Now it is sad that these young women are now widows, and some of the photographs are heart-wrenching, and it is for that very reason that they must be treated with a modicum of distrust.

Why is the American woman always represented in this way?  Why is she always the grieving widow in wartime, always a sad, sexualized mother or wife who has lost her brave, white husband for the greater good of the country?

The night before the burial of her husband’s body, Katherine Cathey refused to leave the casket, asking to sleep next to his body for the last time. The Marines made a bed for her, tucking in the sheets below the flag. Before she fell asleep, she opened her laptop computer and played songs that reminded her of “Cat,” and one of the Marines asked if she wanted them to continue standing watch as she slept. “I think it would be kind of nice if you kept doing it,” she said. “I think that’s what he would have wanted.”

Final Salute Gallery

Final Salute Gallery

Inside the mortuary, Katherine Cathey draped herself over her husband’s casket before putting personal items in it. Flowers from their wedding, a bottle of Jim’s favorite perfume and an ultrasound of their son were some of the things Katherine placed next to 2nd Lt. James Cathey’s remains.

Like James Castonguay comments, prime viewing media such as this blog/photo gallery focuses on the heroism and humanity of people who dedicate their lives to saving the country, not to those who are left beyond in the aftermath, not the story of the citizens, not the story of women, not the story of the real war.

The Colbert Report: Satire and Sadness

•April 28, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I like the Colbert Report. But I find a sort of problem with the consistent use of satire to prove political points. Satire is a type of argument, and I suppose it could be said that Colbert’s program serves a satirical function within the discourse of news-media, but many people in my generation find that shows like The Colbert Report and The Daily Show are news enough for them. I should mention that the blame for this rests on the shoulders of my peers, but still it is dangerous to marginalize a war under the constant guise of comedy.

Just look at this video that I watched this week on “Why Iraq should be turned into a reality TV Show.”

Perhaps such work induces empathy, but what I feel it is actually doing is creating apathy. By presenting political problems like war under comedic pretense, it lessens the readiness to approach such problems seriously.

What does this specifically mean for the War on Terror? Well, I would argue that it aids in creating a distance to the event. It actually functions similarly to channels such as Fox, but through an in inversion. Whereas Fox proliferates a message of hyperbolic violence which desensitizes, The Colbert Report creates a similar apathy through hyperbolic humor.

I am not saying that the show should be boycotted or even changed, but I would hope that my peer-viewers would consider this before using Daily Show quotes in political discourse.

Phantasmal Histories and War Photography

•April 28, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I was just recently reading some chapters out of Alloula‘s text on colonial representations and I felt that there might some interesting analogues drawn between his notion of coming to grips with his own subaltern representation and what is going on in the war on terror. He describes his cultural history as something which he had to reclaim out of thousands of misrepresentations created by the colonizing French.

He describes a sort of guilt inherent with it, that his own people (Algerians) corroborated by this false history by allowing themselves to be photographed and allowing themselves to be taken advantage of so easily. Alloula claims that his history is one which will never be clear of the mar of a westerner’s camera. This is so strongly tied to the article we read by Haim Bresheeth on “War Photography and the Public Sphere,” that I am reminded of a quote from his piece which I pulled out reading:

“{true] Trauma is the result of meeting the other’s pain and horror through representation, either by those not directly involved or by later generations.”

I do not have to wonder if the same things are going on in Iraq and Afghanistan. I know there is no form of representational “getting it right” because the term “right” is unquantifiable and too differentiated between borders. I believe there is a sense of harm felt by those recorded in such a distanced, distorted medium as the American camera.

Alloula describes these histories as phantasms, as they are not representative of the true culture of his people, and yet – in their very testimony- not completely false either. This is the true nature of war photograph, of all photography, that it can exist in a plain of inexusable signifigance as a testimony of a specific time/place archival, yet inevitably limit itself through the record in a physical and cultural lens.

LensesThrough what lenses do we view the War ofTerror?

They assume a sort of liminality between the two structures of social responsibility and orientalism. I can imagine sometime in the near future when young Iraqi’s will have to piece together their history from fetishized images taken by the west.

Out of all of this, it is important to recognize that as much as there is a market for cultural production, there will always be an issue of biography inherent in that. It is disconcerting, in light of Alloula’s text to think about how our current media is affecting the future histories of the generations we are supposedly not colonizing.

RAWA: Revolutionary Association of the Women in Afghanistan

•April 28, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I like the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan. In fact, this isn’t even a commentary post, so much as it is meant to bring light to these women.

RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, was established in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 1977 as an independent political/social organization of Afghan women fighting for human rights and for social justice in Afghanistan.

Their charter ends by saying

Whenever fundamentalists exist as a military and political force in our injured land, the problem of Afghanistan will not be solved. Today RAWA’s mission for women’s rights is far from over and we have to work hard for establishment of an independent, free, democratic and secular Afghanistan. We need the solidarity and support of all people around the world.”

I feel that this breaks some misconceptions about the role of feminism in the middle-east. If war seems to be a symptom of that which is developed from stereotypic masculinity, and if the U.S. is indeed in this war to promote democracy, then why hasn’t RAWA been utilized – to counteract combat? Why is it that the USA military must be constantly acting as the same sort of savior to Jessica Lynch as it is to Afghani women? This is the worst kind of feminism, a pride for women’s rights that is bastardized by its inception in the mouth of a patriarchial, domineering government. It would seem that RAWA is the perfect point of contact to form a progressive alliance. Check out their website for a lot of interesting media, even pro-feminist songs.

Where are the discourses of empowered people in our media? Why must we portray the enemy in a degraded, feminized, humiliated light? To stroke some psychological fears, or the satisfaction of our own prowess? The American government’s need to hold such absolute control over the feelings of the public may have a hand here- we must always look on the Enemy as an Other who is distinct from us in the NEED for us, an Other who is like the typical Female, always submissive, needy, wanting, yet never in alliance with patriarchial groups.

Army of Two: AoT

•April 28, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Video Games and Interactions with War

YouTube time! AOT: or Army of Two: Developed by EA Montreal, AoT is sort of a nightmare of sociological representation, and I do feel that description to be generous.

This is a must watch- click the link above before reading on.

We’re talking here about gaming, with levels taking place in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the player controls one of two hyper-masculine, armor plated, skull masked soldiers of fortune whom, upon making kills, give one another a fist pound.

The burden of implication here is twofold. Firstly the ‘terrorists’ are all pretty much indistinct from country to country, essentially virtual fodder for the player’s heavy arsenal. However, if the ‘good guys’ in this game are meant to portray the capitalist west, and I feel that they are, then there is another real issue of appearance. To look at them is essentially to look into a design appealing primarily to uneducated, 13 year old would-be patriots. Think of it, your best friend, money, guns, muscles, and thousands of dead terrorists. While this might appeal to young children, this representation of the capitalist west by any educated standard is almost as offensive as the face-less, region-less Iraqis. I suppose it comes down to a sort of hyperbolic choice: be a devil or be a nobody.

Tracking down Habiba Sorabi

•April 28, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Habiba Sorabi was the first female governor of Afghanistan, and that was the extent of my knowledge until I tried to track her down this week. What kind of news exists about Sorabi, how have her successes andHabiba Sorabi failures been shed light on in the media, and what exactly has been reported about her political involvement? The first thing I did this week was listen to an NPR report entitled “Female Governor Fights Lonely Battle in Afghanistan.”

The report pronounced that in her province of Bamiyan, after 2 years of her being in office the residents still do not have electricity or paved roads, and that many critics would like to see her resign.

The news report said that when Sorabi came into office, she stressed having a judicial system in Bamiyan as one of her top priorities in addition to creating new sources of income for the region. She says on the show (not sure where the quote was taken from): “Bamiyan is a historical cultural town. That means, on the one hand, the historical identity of the region must be restored by the reconstruction. And on the other, we want to attract tourists to the region, thus creating new sources of income for the province and for its people.” So if the focus on tourism, it does lead me to believe that some semblance of roads and electric infrastructure would have been implemented by now. I am wondering whether this is a case of the persons reporting this story not having trustworthy inside contacts, and therefore portraying what may be a political blockade against her success as this “failure to produce results,” or whether Sorabi has done nothing more than simply follow in the footsteps of her predecessors. More to come this week!

Google News and Women in Afghanistan

•April 28, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Apparently even Google is predjudiced when it comes to looking at women in Afghnistan. Google Hits for women in AfghanistanA Google search in the “regular,” “images,” and “news,” section all reveals that the first three hits to appear portray Afghani women has tortured, abused, veiled, and generally subdued by their culture and political system.  While the oppression of the Taliban regime is nothing to scoff at, the continual use of these images in the media sexualizes Afghani women through exoticism of the veil, the covered taboo, and creates a warrior-hero out of American forces who then need to “rescue” these “poor women.”  Where are the women sleeping with AK47’s in their beds or whose husbands were blown to bits in front of their eyes or who themselves have been suicide bombers?  Where are the statistics that show the true cost of war?