My husband and I have a running joke about the television presenters on CNN. It would be an understatement to say that he often gets asked if he is Anderson Cooper. I joke that if I lost about 15 pounds, with my long dark hair, maybe I could pass for Erin Burnett (it's a long shot). Thing is he really does look like Anderson Cooper. Me? My only similarity with Erin Burnett, besides the hair, is being one of a shrinking number of people who still care to talk about the war in Afghanistan.
When I saw that Erin would be airing her show from Afghanistan several weeks ago I was surprised because real coverage of the war has been over for awhile; with only the latest military scandal deemed worthy of coverage for the American viewing public. The war is so yesterday. The media is ready to move on to covering the aftermath.
In 2012, "the soldier" was digestible as a backdrop in commercials, reality shows, public service announcements, or as product packaging donating to veteran charities. There is no need to show soldiers who are still trekking through mountains carrying guns or wounded on the battlefield. There is little war coverage beyond a dramatic event resulting in a book deal. With the exception of Seal Team Six, the sanitized version of the post-war soldier is just enough for everyone to feel satisfactorily connected with the war without really knowing what is going on with the war.
This year, the Pentagon has sponsored a quarter million dollar flower-covered float in Pasadena's Tournament of Roses to remind America of the other Forgotten War; fought decades ago in Korea.
According to James McEachin, who will be among six Korean War veterans riding on the float, the American public felt no connection to the fighting in a faraway Asian country unlike during World War II when airwaves filled with patriotic fight songs.
But even with our "airwaves" filled with images of service members the American public still feels no connection to the fighting in a faraway Middle Eastern country. According to an article by Brian Stelter for The New York Times, the absence of "Afghanistan" from top 2012 year-end news story lists "reflects both the national news media's scant coverage of the war and the public's disengagement with it."
With approximately 68,000 troops still in Afghanistan, the people charged with reminding the public of the war have held a wrap party. In the minds of most Americans, the lights are on and the credits are rolling while service members and military families know we are far from the curtain dropping on the story. Absent of catchy theme music or a tagline, the war in Afghanistan is left to relying on the hope that the national media will take time out from the more interesting news stories to report from the front line.
I understand that the American public is war weary. I only wish they understood what war weary really meant. Like it or not, we are still fighting a war in Afghanistan. With today's 24-hour news, I hope it doesn't take decades and a float to remember this forgotten war.