Recently, some national media corporations thought that broadcasting names of Americans who died in the Iraq War is an anti-war protest statement rather than a tribute to American soldiers (here is how ABC news, who broadcasts Nightline with Ted Koppel, reported the story).
Now, Doonesbury cartoonist Gary Trudeau wants to use his medium for a similar project:
“Doonesbury” creator Garry Trudeau’s plan to use his May 30 strip to list more than 700 names of U.S. military personnel killed in Iraq is eliciting strong reaction…
National Society of Newspaper Columnists President Mike Leonard said Trudeau’s May 30 comic “will visually illustrate the lengthening list of war dead and drive home the point that these aren’t just anonymous casualties. … Doing this on Memorial Day weekend reinforces the long view — that the people killed in the current war have paid the same sacrifice as our veterans from Vietnam, Korea, World War II, and other military actions.”
There are, of course, some dissenting views:
“Tribune Media Services columnist Cal Thomas said: “I wouldn’t mind if he [Trudeau] also would name the hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, that Saddam was responsible for murdering.”"
I think Cal Thomas is missing the point of honoring dead soldiers on Memorial Day. By Cal Thomas’ logic, perhaps we should broadcast the names of the innocent civilians killed in Iraq by friendly fire, or the Rawandan genocide victims, or genocide in Cambodia, or any of the millions who died at the hands of dictators and maniacs.
We should broadcast their names. All of them. Perhaps broadcasting the names of the dead of any war or genocide will be numbing and will lose its effect. Maybe it will remind us that there is evil in the world, as if turning on the television isn’t reminder enough. Broadcast all of them. There should be a national channel broadcasting the names of the dead, all of the dead, in every war, in every police action, in every torture chamber, in every sandy hole, in every graveyard. Do it. Broadcast them and maybe we’ll be reminded or maybe we’ll switch back to American Idol.
But don’t tell me that honoring their memory, even an attempt to honor their memory, especially on Memorial Day, is not appropriate. When will it be appropriate? When can we honor them? Why does it matter if it comes from Koppel or Trudeau? Fine. let Sean Hannity do it. Or Bill O’Reilly. Or let the guy who draws Garfield do it. Honor the dead. Show their names.
They died for ideals and politics. Don’t let ideals and politics erase our memory of them.