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 V.15 No.34 | August 24 - 30, 2006 

Thin Line

A Thing Called Delusion--The untimely demise of two New Mexico soldiers last week, Leroy Segura and Jose Zamora, gave the local media a chance to lay down a thick layer of schmaltz similar to that of their big-city counterparts in those “Fallen Heroes” segments.

It jogged my memory as to why I hate the television news and its handling of this and every other recent war.

The Western equivalent of the martyr video always looks the same. The deceased, old pictures slathered against the TV screen, is always smiling--loving his country, his kids and puppies.

Now, I'm no monster. I see the necessity of honoring the dead; but sappy, sentimental sound bytes exploiting the sorrow of the bereft honor no one. They merely perpetuate the illusion that dying for a cause is oh-so-glorious.

I'm bothered by these ham-fisted network eulogies for two reasons.

First, my brother spent almost a year and a half serving in Iraq, where he was wounded within a week of arriving. For some reason, I found the sugarcoated “Fallen Heroes” bits provided by the major networks of little comfort in part because I loathe being condescended to. I knew my brother was in harm’s way, and I dreaded having to regale some field correspondent from Fox News about how much Andrew loved …

We changed the channel.

Second, the age of around-the-clock coverage of war was ushered in with Gulf War One nearly 20 years ago. I have since found it extremely difficult to reconcile my fairly strong aversion to violence with my love of gigantic explosions. This all changed one night in the midst of an episode of "Frontline"--damn you, PBS--that explained how all those lovely video clips of smart bombs destroying black and white buildings in a most sterile manner have been doctored to look that way. The program showed the ready-for-TV version followed by the one without the filter. Heads, torsos and limbs scatter away from the building. Gone forever was my naïve belief in the “surgical strike.”

It all makes the news coverage of war casualties seem like an insult to the collective intelligence of the country. They don’t show the flying corpses, and they shy away from anything that might come across as a "bummer" to the viewing public. It’s all: “He sure loved his country." It’s never: “He won’t ever get to be depressed on his 40th birthday.”

It’s the job of the press to be objective. They aren’t. If they aren’t going to be objective, then may I suggest showing the ugly side of all this. Forget the flag-waving super-patriot drivel and give me a glimpse of what actually happens. Show what an IED does to a person’s body, or a newly returned soldier who gets startled at the sound of a car backfiring. And stop switching gears at every possible turn. Israel and Hezbollah hate each other. I get it. The Ramseys didn’t do it. Gotcha. Iraq is the most important issue affecting this country. It should have priority.

Most of all, show me the truth. I don’t care if I can’t handle it.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

 
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