American Views Abroad

Monday, November 02, 2009
In the op-edit piece Chronicle of a Death We Can't Accept in the NYT on November 1st, Thomas G. Long writes: People who have learned how to care tenderly for the bodies of the dead are almost surely people who also know how to show mercy to the bodies of the living.

Last Friday on the front pages of both the IHT and the Sueddeutsche Zeitung were photos of President Obama saluting the 18 fallen Americans as their bodies were brought back to Delaware in the middle of the night before being taken to their home communities for burial. It was a somber and tender gesture at this moment when he has to decide on what course to take in Afghanistan.

Long further writes in this commentary: funerals often involve processions, sometimes simple, sometimes elaborate, a form of community theater in which we enact publicly the journey from here to there, thereby enabling both the dead and the living to process the reality and the meaning of mortality.

In this case one should add to process the reality and meaning of war. To bring it home, up front and close. War is first and foremost about death and destruction. Recently a very old and most likely one of the last veterans of World War I passed away in Great Britain. He took part in some of its most horrific battles. Yet late in life he spoke out in harsh words wondering what all that destruction and loss of life brought. It was, of course, the next war.

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