Here Come the Brides was an ABC television series which aired in the late sixties. The pilot was set, as was the series, in the nineteenth century. It depicted "the brides" sailing from New England to Seattle. In the pilot episode the young and attractive Bridget Hanley is hanging her laundry on the deck of her sailing ship and Bobby Sherman asks her why she is showing the crew her "unmentionables," to which she replies: "They know I wear it, why shouldn't they know I wash it?"
I regret that I so often get into silly metaphors in order to make a point, and this will have to be one of them.
This is not about "unmentionables" but rather a different visual unmentionable: the pictures of our current wars dead, wounded, and dying.
One of my friends is Maurice "Reese" Schonfeld an American television journalist who was co-founder of CNN and the Food Network.
He grew up in Newark, New Jersey, graduated from Dartmouth College, and received an M.A. and a law degree from Columbia University.
Reese was with United Press Movietone News, a Vice President of United Press International Television News, Founder of the Independent Television News Association (a service much like the AP) which provided news it gathered and news provided by its members, to independent television stations.
I on the other hand am an Electrical Engineer, ran divisions of Television Companies and worked at CBS for three years selling CBS News content. My politics are certainly to the left of center.
I am also a four year Air Force vet having served in the Korean War, and was in jeopardy not from the usual dangers of combat, but from drinking, driving, and chasing women.
I will now, just once, acknowledge that Reese is a very experienced Journalist and I am not.
Notwithstanding this, we are in the midst of a journalistic argument and I will divulge the issues as fairly and honestly as a television program salesman is capable of doing, which is not easy.
Reese and I agree that Bush erred in not allowing the caskets of our soldiers who were killed in action to be shown when they were brought back in America. That is the end of our being able to agree about anything else.
I believe that if you "wear it" you can show that you "washed it". If you are willing to put kids in harms way, you should be willing to show the public exactly what the harms way entails.
I say that our troops are being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and have died horrid deaths so it is reasonable to show this to the American public in print and on television. To me it is bad enough that we are killing and wounding our kids and theirs which is somehow OK or acceptable to society, yet it is not OK to show the dead and wounded.
Reese says: "A dead soldier with his guts hanging out, and hung up on barbed wire is a horse of a very different color."
He maintains that the decision to withhold graphic pictures was not even a close call. He also agrees with the decision by television networks during the Vietnam War, to not show pictures or videos of guys with their guts hanging out.
In my opinion dying or being wounded in battle is not a glorious thing. It is not a television program, a film, or an interactive video game depicting combat violence and deaths where characters and players are unscathed and it is all some sort of entertainment.
One of my other friends is an 87 year old 82nd Airborne officer who served in Europe during the Second World War. He recalls that carnage was so prevalent for him that it meant little or nothing for him to come across a severed limb or head and not be affected by it at all. He was badly wounded in France and spent a long time recovering at Walter Reade Hospital.
He also believes that if the bodies of the dead as well as the badly wounded were to be shown on television that the populace would want the war to be ended quickly.
Reese says that death is never glorious, but dying in battle for a just cause, is a noble and honorable thing. He goes on to say that horrific pictures of the dead and dying shame the people who take them, and even more the people who would print them. If we had shown some of Matthew Brady's pictures during the Civil War, George McClellan would've beaten Abraham Lincoln in the 1864 election. If it were not for the dead and the wounded, blacks would still be slaves.
I maintain that as a rule when "leaders" send our sons and daughters off to die they will invariably sell it as a "noble and honorable thing to do." I give you for consideration the "nobility and honor" of those well over 100,000 of our soldiers who died in Korea and Vietnam. Please tell me in retrospect why these kids had to die? Why? Why? Why?
To me withholding the ugly side of war is censorship. Reese would call it "editing."
As a rule old men send other peoples children off to die for reasons that almost always fade away after time.
We have our troops in harms way in Iraq and Afghanistan. When they die or are wounded in battle will someone explain to me exactly what the just and honorable or noble cause was or is?
Paraphrasing Bridget Hanley "If we know that our kids are fighting and dying why shouldn't we see what is actually happening to them?"