Friday, December 08, 2006

The Crosses of Lafayette: Individualizing Death

Katherine Tam of the Contra Costa Times looks at the Crosses of Lafayette in the context of other memorials and protests that "individualize" death:
Hundreds of white crosses in memory of fallen troops line beaches and fields in at least a dozen cities across the country, including the Bay Area. A traveling exhibit uses combat boots to convey the death toll in Iraq.

Items and images that trigger thoughts of fallen soldiers and the Iraq war have ignited an emotional response around the country, not just in Lafayette, where white crosses blanket a hillside.

"The individualization of death -- having boots or a cross for each person -- is a bit like re-enacting the burial in some way, but done in a public setting," said Michael McConnell, who spearheaded the exhibit of combat boots in Chicago.

"It individualizes it enough so nobody becomes a statistic, so death remains a tragedy," he said. "(Such displays make) so much more of a difference emotionally for people."

I certainly agree with Katherine about igniting "an emotional response" but I do not understand the underlying causes of each emotion. For instance, I understand why the crosses in Lafayette or the crosses and the signs together make people uncomfortable. After all, at least in part, that is the point. But what about the anger?

At the Lafayette Town Hall meeting we witnessed real anger and hostility from some of those who oppose the crosses or the sign or both. Interestingly, the two parents (Nadia McCaffrey and Patrick Sheehan) of soldiers killed in Iraq spoke in favor of keeping the crosses and sign. They were not angry and they felt no need to attack those who did not agree with them.

I interpret the anger on the part of the mothers with boys in the Marines as fear masquerading as anger. I understand.

In some cases the anger may stem from being proved wrong about earlier support for the war. Okay.

But what about rage toward those who support the crosses? Afterall, Nadia McCaffrey feels double crossed by the U.S. government that went to war on false pretenses, failed to plan for the peace and failed to provide the right protection for the troops who were fighting or the right care for the wounded returning.


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