The 2,973 tiny American flags &
covering less than a third of the area the original Iraqi Body Count Exhibit blanketed on the lawns of Southern Oregon University &
were not erected just because students were feeling particularly patriotic. The flags represent the lives lost in the Sept. 11 tragedy and were placed there by veterans and students who seemed to be offended by the Iraqi Body Count Exhibit, which garnered serious attention from students and community members while erected in front of the university.
But with the 3,974 Americans (now somewhere past 4,050), and 655,000 Iraqis dead from the war, the numbers which make up the Terrorism War Memorial sadly seem to pale in comparison.
Is it retaliation? I have heard some veterans say that they disagreed with the Iraqi Body Count Exhibit. Some found it misleading and insulting &
but could that be because they could finally see the devastating numbers of lives being lost? Some of the people unhappy with the original flag exhibit suggested that it was biased, pointing a finger at the U.S. government and the armed forces, suggesting we should have never been in Iraq in the first place. So what if that is what it is saying? That is true to some people. The original exhibit was taken by some as a political statement, and those felt it was wrong and accusing. But isn't the Terrorism War Memorial as brash a statement?
What is wrong with conjuring up a visual representation of the human lives lost at war? Could it be guilt? Could the Terrorism War Memorial somehow be meant to justify all of the thousands of white and red flags representing death that covered the lawns at SOU?
The Iraqi Body Count Exhibit was never meant to be a political statement but a memorial, and if people felt that it was placing blame, we should ask ourselves why we are feeling that way. Maybe our country should finally accept some blame &
that would be a brazen idea.
One of the main arguments made by the veterans who were unhappy with the body count exhibit explained that they believe the numbers which represented the dead Iraqis may be misleading, though the numbers come from the British Lancet Medical Journal, which is considered to be one of the core medical journals established. And while it's understood that it is hard to pinpoint an exact number for dead Iraqis, I would argue that the numbers for the Terrorism War Memorial may be skewed as well, as some who died in the Sept. 11 tragedies were never recorded. We should keep this in mind as to not create a standard case of hypocrisy.
Those unhappy with the original exhibit expressed concern with the overwhelming number of white flags representing Iraqi soldiers and civilians &
they claimed it minimizes the significance of the red flags, as though our lives are somehow more precious than others. Maybe that is where the problem lies. Isn't our self importance the American condition?
Many countries have been living in a horrific environment we've helped create &
not just Iraq. It is hardly fair, yet no responsibility is ever assumed. If noticing how many of our people have died strikes the string of sadness, let's look at what's causing it, then make it stop. We do after all, hold the majority of the power.
Not only did the Iraqi Body Count Exhibit inspire the Terrorism Awareness Memorial, but the Silent Shoe Vigil was recently set up on the lawn in front of Hannon Library. The 350 pairs of shoes represented a fraction of college students who die each year due to alcohol-related deaths.
Whether you agree with the exhibits, or not, one thing is for certain &
they have an impact on the people who see them, and it looks like visually representing an issue by showing the quantity of those who suffer, may be the next big thing.
Flag exhibits make people think
The 2,973 tiny American flags &