I can't help contrasting this shot from yesterday's WAPO Day in Photos with the White House photo gallery's endless wall paper of military spouses as loyal, brave and beaming.
Sure, it's just one shot. But the symbolism here conveys a fundamental erosion of the "stiff upper lip." As well, it speaks -- in the media sphere -- to the kind of unsustainable emotional strain on our troops that military officials have been warning of more urgently lately. (As a metaphor, perhaps the brick wall also has something to contribute on that point.)
According to the caption, we see a military wife comforting her twins this past Saturday as their father leaves home for his second deployment to Iraq. I don't know how old these children were when their father shipped out the first time. With the occupation entering its sixth year, however, these two are likely apprehending the reality of this mindless war in a deeper way that they were before.
Still, there's an aspect of the photo, and the boy, that troubles me far more than the tragic expressiveness -- the "come back; touch me; don't go" -- of the boy's hand.
What I'm referring to is the prominent emblem on the boy's shirt. After doing a little searching, I discovered it's a patch for F.D.N.Y. Hazardous Materials Company #1 (which I found on a site called fallenbrothers.com). I certainly feel for the moment. At the same time, however, this emblem on the boy, as part of a heart-tugging image offered for national consumption by the Washington Post, seems like a blasphemous display as both family and media further perpetuate the outlandish linkage between Iraq and 9/11.
... Oh, and did I mention that the day's WAPO gallery was sponsored by a web commercial for the U.S. Air Force, leading off with an image of the Pentagon and the line: "This building is going to be attacked 3 million times today?"
View the FDNY Hazardous Materials Patch -- actual size (BNN)
View the Air Force ad at: Air Force Cyber Command's New Weapon: DMCA Notices (Wired)
White House glorification of Iraq spouses at President Bush Commemorates Military Spouse Day (whitehouse.gov)
Washington Post Day in Photos April 14, 2008
(image: Joseph Kaczmarek/AP. April 12, 2008. Philadelphia. washingtonpost.com)