Monday, May 26, 2008

Remember More

Remember by Christina Rossetti

Remember me when I am gone away, Gone far away into the silent land; When you can no more hold me by the hand, Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay. Remember me when no more day by day You tell me of our future that you planned: Only remember me; you understand It will be late to counsel then or pray. Yet if you should forget me for a while And afterwards remember, do not grieve: For if the darkness and corruption leave A vestige of the thoughts that once I had, Better by far you should forget and smile Than that you should remember and be sad.

The speaker in Rossetti's piece comforts the loved one left behind; if you should forget for a while, you should not grieve. He gives permission to "forget and smile," rather than "remember and be sad." He thought of the left behind with a fullness of love and consideration and only asks for occasional remembrance. Thus, giving the living an excuse not to hurt or mourn, or learn more - and apparently, we're doing exactly that.

In today's issue of the NYT, David Carr writes "The Wars We Choose to Ignore", on how the coverage of the Iraq war has tapered off even as the body count remained high. He says that according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s News Coverage Index, the coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has slipped to 3 percent of all American print and broadcast news as of last week, falling from 25 percent as recently as last September. That television network news coverage has also gone off a cliff. He talks of reporters haunted by proximity to the dead and the wounded but wonders about the rest of us. "There is a cold and sad calculation that readers/viewers aren’t that interested in the war, whether because they are preoccupied with paying $4 for a gallon of gas and avoiding foreclosure, or because they have Iraq fatigue.” Below is a brief excerpt. To read the entire piece, click here.

[…] "public attitudes toward the war have become so calcified that few are interested in learning more. Why bother when things don’t change?

Except that they do, in a heartbeat. Last Thursday, Steve and Linda Ellis of Baker City, Ore., held a funeral for their daughter, Army Cpl. Jessica Ann Ellis. Corporal Ellis, a 24-year-old combat medic, died May 11 in Baghdad, a victim of a roadside bomb during her second tour of Iraq. She had been injured just three weeks before in a similar attack, but chose to go back out. She was assigned to the Second Brigade Special Troops Battalion, Second Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division and had curly, unruly hair, which brought her the nickname “Napoleon Dynamite” early in her military career.

[…] Hanging in the building where I work, there is a striking picture from the newspaper’s archives (by Angel Franco, a New York Times photographer) of a young soldier in Arizona looking up into the eyes of her father, saying goodbye, her eyes shiny with love and fear. I look at the picture every day as I walk by and think of my 20-year-old twin girls, safe at college. The feeling of gratitude is always followed by guilt. My girls are out of harm’s way, but what about that man’s daughter? What about Ms. Ellis?

On Saturday, her parents received an e-mail message from one of the colleagues in Iraq she was charged with looking after.

“There are wounds that don’t show on the outside,” he wrote. “She gave me the best medicine for what I had — hope and love.”

As the war in Afghanistan and Iraq enters its 7th year, can we pledge for more than occasional remembrance on all appropriate holidays of the year? Can we pledge to not just mourn but also to learn more, until all the troops are home?

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