From The Wall’s fall to Veterans Day: Are we focused on the right images?


James Blake Miller the Iraq Marlboro Man
Did Obama’s remarks about the Ft. Hood tragedy focus on the right message? Are we as Americans focusing on the right images and issues?

Facts about the Ft. Hood tragedy—some quite alarming and disturbing—are beginning to emerge. But before we move on to consider these facts and what they mean, we should pause to reflect on what the president said about the horrible event—and whether this is the right way to look at it.

Here’s an excerpt from his weekly address, which he devoted to condolences offered to the victims and their families:

“Thursday’s shooting was one of the most devastating ever committed on an American military base. And yet, even as we saw the worst of human nature on full display, we also saw the best of America. We saw soldiers and civilians alike rushing to aid fallen comrades; tearing off bullet-riddled clothes to treat the injured; using blouses as tourniquets; taking down the shooter even as they bore wounds themselves. …”

“We saw the valor, selflessness, and unity of purpose that make our servicemen and women the finest fighting force on Earth; that make the United States military the best the world has ever known; and that make all of us proud to be Americans.”


In times like these, a president has to present a strong, reassuring image. But in this case, did he focus too much on the silver lining and too little on the dark cloud?

With full credit to the courageous actions of the soldiers and civilians who responded, is it correct to interpret all this as “the best of America” or evidence that ours is “the finest fighting force on Earth”?

A more powerful message would have been to pledge a renewed commitment to address the key issues facing the military, and that were implicated in the Ft. Hood tragedy. Among these are the growing numbers of battle-stressed soldiers, inadequate psychological care, the challenge of readjusting to civilian life, and, of course, resolution of the wars themselves.

Using the tragedy to face and name these issues would have been “the best of America.”

Do you agree?
    How did the president’s remarks strike you?

    (Note on today’s photo: This Associated Press photo of U.S. Iraq War veteran James Blake Miller was dubbed “the Marlboro Man” and was celebrated around the world as the face of American determination. The photo now is a provocative image. Back in the U.S., Miller’s life spiraled out of control from post-traumatic stress. He was quoted in 2007 as saying: “What have we gained as a country? What have we actually accomplished other than the loss of some damn fine people?”)

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