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Lynch and Tillman and ANZAC protest

Briefly: a heck of a day for the narratives of war. A congressional hearing in the U.S. heard some serious mythbusting from people who should know – Jessica Lynch, she who was rescued, and Kevin Tillman, army ranger and brother of Pat, he who was killed in action.
The pathological need for the military to create Commando-comic narratives of heroism has never been shown up so bluntly as in this hearing.
Kevin Tillman: “Revealing that Pat’s death was a fratricide [shot by a fellow U.S. soldier] would have been yet another political disaster during a month already swollen with disasters. The facts needed to be suppressed. An alternative narrative had to be constructed, crucial evidence destroyed.”
Jessica Lynch: “The American people are capable of determining their own ideals for heroes, and they don’t need to be told elaborate lies. I had the good fortune to come home and to tell the truth. Many soldiers, like Pat Tillman, did not have that opportunity.”
I want to say something more about this, about the role of war in our sense of identity, about why it is so important to us and why we are so vulnerable to mythmaking in service to it. I don’t have the time, however. I will say that those who protested at the ANZAC services yesterday do have a point – the rituals and solemnity of ANZAC day may serve to legitimise militarism and so forth.
But, that said, there are ways and means to raise your concerns, and turning up the dawn parade with a bullhorn and a burning flag isn’t going to achieve anything but alienating people. As much as I have sympathy with many left-wing readings of society and culture, this kind of tone-deaf behaviour is just stupid, both tactically and strategically, and hinders the entire political left. Thanks a bunch.

{ 14 } Comments

  1. scott k | April 26, 2007 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Yes, I guess it’s for those reasons you stated that I have never carried out my preferred protest against the secular religious ritual of ANZAC day – namely, turning up at the dawn parade dressed in black tie and tophat, carrying a cane and a shotgun, with a pig trussed up in a WW1 soldiers uniform, complete with lemon-squeezer hat. I would loudly inform the pig what a sterling job it’s doing for it’s country and it’s culture, and then shoot it in the head with the shotgun, rip open its little soldiers tunic, gut it, wipe my bloodied hands on it tunic, and finally stand up and, hand on heart, sing the national anthem.

  2. hix | April 26, 2007 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    I’ll chip in 5 bucks for the cost of the pig.

  3. Adrexia | April 26, 2007 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    The ANZAC day protests seem a long way of target to me. ANZAC day was already a protest against war and how horrible war can be. Protesting against a protest against war, with the intent to err… protest against war? O_o
    Or has the purpose of ANZAC day changed while I wasn’t looking? Is it now glorifying war?

  4. morgue | April 26, 2007 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    ANZAC Day’s meaning and purpose is constantly evolving. Right now it is quite openly contested. Everyone understands that it’s about remembering the fallen, at least the NZ version is – but in what context? “Their noble sacrifice for freedom” vs. “they died for nothing” being the big two in contest at the moment.
    I think there’s definitely a case that these ceremonies might serve to glorify and romanticise war and military service and military action. I wouldn’t make that claim myself, at least not as a conclusion, but I think those who do have a point.

  5. 2trees | April 26, 2007 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    Romanticise war? – Is the fact we have a lot of real footage and facts, in NZ, about the on going wars in the world enough to take to the shine off it.
    ANZAC day to me is about remembering the people who went to war believing in the common good and having faith in their government. They lost their lives so we could understand that we should question what our leaders are doing. We remember men and women who worked in extraordinary circumstances (coerced into conflict), who gave their lives for our freedom of speech that we utilise every day. Respect them for that at least.

  6. edel | April 26, 2007 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    It’s reading posts like this that give me hope for humanity. On either side of the supposedly “left-right” divide, a gentle tolerance and respect for other human beings, whatever their beliefs is going to move us forward as a species.
    Thanks for your posts – I always enjoy reading them (though I rarely comment).
    –edel (delichan from livejournal)

  7. morgue | April 26, 2007 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    2trees – well said, my friend, well said.

  8. morgue | April 26, 2007 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

    And thanks edel! I always enjoy your posts too 🙂

  9. Ben | April 26, 2007 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

    Count me with those who can’t even fathom a protest. ANZAC day signifies rememberance of the sacrifice war required of our people – I can’t conceive of glory, in a militaristic sense, having any role. Whether the sacrifice was in good cause (WWII, without excusing the many allied atrocities) or a waste (WWI) is irrelevent. The horror of war and sacrifice itself are the point. Militarism will have a victory if its significance fades and we DO forget them.
    I know its in one sense a myth, but its an important part of our identity that our nation was forged on Chunak Bair. I think the role this ANZAC concept plays in our identity is the very reason we are not an inherently militaristic society. That and the fact we can’t afford any planes.

  10. scott k | April 26, 2007 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

    My grandfather joined up for WW2 while pissed and came back from it an alcoholic. In between he took part in the breakout at Minqar Qaim, was captured at Rusewait Ridge, and twice escaped from POW camps. He led me (a warry-eyed child) to understand that war is nothing but stupid pointless butchery at the behest of governments and class systems, and never attended an ANZAC service because he had no desire to be reminded or listen to lies.
    I have nothing but respect for the experience of those who have fought in wars. But I can think of better ways to honour those that fought than this self-consciously pious “coming together” once a year to “remember”. ANZAC Day has become a national riff,the main purpose of which is not the veterans themselves, (personally I think they should be remembered every bloody day and get some decent healthcare to boot), but some collective emotional yearning or need.
    What is it? Fuck knows. But I do know that while we solemnly say war is hell, most males (at least) would secretly love to experience it, just to see what it’s like and earn their uber-cool 1000 yard stare – provided they knew they’d survive, of course (although such prior-knowledge would kind of make the whole experience null and void).
    Christ – most of our present culture is geared towards giving males vicarious experiences symbolic of war. Damn near all of our entertainments are based on premises of murder and conquest. ANZAC Day? Now we shall remember them? One day of truth among 364 other days of fucking hypocrisy, denial and lies.

  11. scott k | April 27, 2007 at 12:06 am | Permalink

    Incidentally, that should be spelled Ruweisat Ridge. And any Kiwi’s keen to do their one-day-of-the-year’s “remembering” who don’t know what happened at Minqar Qaim should go find out.

  12. Scott A | April 27, 2007 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    The disquiet I, and numerous others, seem to be feeling about the current environment of ANZAC day celebrations has little to do with concerns it’s “glorifying war” or any such thing.
    It doesn’t. It still has a strong quality of regret, anger and perhaps even shame while remembering such military adventures.
    No, my disquiet comes for perceiving a growing atmosphere of myopic nationalism becoming attached to the events. That to be a New Zealander you should be involved. That to question the events and sacrifices of New Zealanders in wartime is unpatriotic. To question the validity and legitimacy of the wars NZ has been involved in is anti-Kiwi, anti-Anzac.
    The atmosphere around ANZAC day is becoming more and more like the cultural patroitism we see in the USA and, more recently, in Australia, that leads the population of those countries allow their leaders to involve them in imperialistic wars.
    It disturbs me.

  13. JD | May 1, 2007 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    I grew up with the tale of an Uncles selfliss heroism, and imagined him a warrior in all sense of the word, now at a much more mature age I stand at ANZAC day and with sadness, ponder the great waste, of such a shining star, because in my journey thru life I learned why my uncle won his medals, not for some vaunted political reason, nor for some great sense of duty to his country. I am almost certain it was for his mates, because if we all put ourselves in the position where we could save a mates life, by just a small ounce of gumption, I’ll wager most of my generation would do the same. I guess that is a warrior creed, and perhaps in fact my uncle was a warrior, but not the fearless romantic one, more of a “Good Mate”. I believe as the “takers up” of the torch we need to pass on to younger generations, that ANZAC day is a lot about the NZ ethos, of a fair go, and standing up for your mates, and a lot less about political will, and much other clap trap that our present bunch of nongs in Wellington seem to bleat on about on ANZAC parades the world over. Stand to as a nation people, before we are drowned in political bullsh*&.

  14. JD | May 1, 2007 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    As an addendum, I was given the book by Allan Moorehead “Gallipoli” for my birthday this year. It should be compulsory reading for every young NZ’er (so far at least), I think it would seal in schist rock a resolve by all future generations not to be lead into some militiristic adventure by supposed Allies. Besides, it details what a bunch of spineless wankers the Pom politicians were in those days. An excellent chronicle of a ridiculously arrogant adventure by a super power. From the very first shell fired on the forts in the Dardanelles .. it lays bare the political and militaristic bungling of an arrogant people, and the butchery of good men. Not unlike that which is unfolding in Iraq at this very moment in time.