Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

It's Memorial Day and I'm in the office, so of course I'm looking for ways to procrastinate. New post time!

After the VT tragedy, a local church put up 32 (by my count) flag poles in memorial. Each pole is flying a flag of the state that was somehow associated with one of the victims. So, as you can imagine, there are probably 25 or more American flags flown, as well as an Indian flag, an Israeli flag, and several others I couldn't name off the top of my head.

This memorial is a profound statement of how ridiculous our symbolic landscape has become. Note the process: individual -> nationality -> state; this memorial manages to conflate all three. In this process, it demolishes the individuals, with all their variety and independence, far more thoroughly than any bullet.

Let us not forget that these were real, living people. No symbol or category could contain them, because like us, they were unpredictable and ever-changing. Should we now try to box them up in symbols to serve our own fears, our own perverse anxieties?

As individuals, we all need to understand the total process of authority and what a silly game it is. If we can get past the barriers it creates, perhaps we will be able to appreciate each other fully before the next tragedy, whatever it may be, rather than being left with only regret and emptiness.

2 comments:

sara said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sara said...

Mark! I found your blog!

I agree entirely. Every time we drive past those flags, Jane and I end up talking about how frustrated we are by the various memorials. I wish there was a better why to capture who these people were in life.

To be frank - No, I do not take comfort in the idea that they are "in the arms of God" and that is part of his plan. Likewise, I do not feel particularly comforted by knowing that the "Hokies will Prevail" and go on to play another great season of football. Where is the comfort for people like me?

Promise me that if anything happens to me you won't let them put flags up as a representation of me. Perhaps I should design a flag to represent me just in case? :-)