The Problem With Memorializing Our War Dead Without Honest Accounting of History
The New York Times
It’s irresponsible to memorialize wars in a way that strips out the darker notes and creates a narrative that is “narrow, heroic and emotionally soothing.” Read the full story
Memorializing those killed in war seems to be a cross-cultural and human phenomenon. This process helps those who remain remember their fallen and loved ones, and in some way can be a healthy part of the necessary grieving process. History books are littered with memorialized figures, which often are used to create and maintain a narrative and symbolism towards those narratives. The story posted in the New York Times, also brings to light how false accounting of those narratives are harmful, and may even perpetuate harm. If you work with combat veterans long enough most will tell you, “War sucks! No one wins in war.” These comments come from frontline experience, for those who have been to hell and back, who have bled and lost; just like their enemies. Particularly, for wars which seem to have had no clear objective, or moral imperative to fight and to kill. The false narrative is often produced to not only memorialize, but to provide justification for actions that are too real and too ugly to accept. Psychologically, and in the face of human trauma, most desire to avoid and turn the other way. In not so rare cases victims are often blamed as “perpetrators”, such as Vietnam veterans and those true victims of military sexual trauma. This blame acts as a shield for personal and national shame, exalting the witness to a place of superior morality and self-control; denying the fact that witnesses are also participants, and have a responsibility to make sure that the accounts are accurate and tell the truth to the real horrors of war. Furthermore, that the moral and physical injuries of war be given the acknowledgement and proper approaches to healing.