Profitable and Harmful Fear

I-5_north_approaching_I-10_east_split-_long_viewDo you remember when a few people suggested that Obama would crown himself dictator, run for a third term, confiscate all of the guns, etc., etc.? Now that the primaries and caucuses for the election of his successor are virtually complete, those fears seem to have dissipated, replaced with new fears, of course. And stoking fear happens across the political spectrum. Someone is taking away our opportunities (whether identified as immigrants or the superrich). Someone is trying to take away our vote (whether a particular party or campaign, SuperPACs or legislators through redistricting and new voting requirements). If the other party (whichever is other within the conversation) comes to power, they will take away vital rights (reproductive choice, second amendment, privacy, etc.). We are repeatedly told to be afraid. With all the talk of fear, it appears that the freedoms and quality of life in the United States hang by a thread.

And yet, if we step back and think about it, our way of life is not as tenuous as some would lead us to believe. The horrific shooting in Orlando this past weekend is both tragic and scary, fanning our common fears of mass violence, especially among communities who feel targeted. While people discuss various aspects of the shooting and propose potential policies that might prevent it (depending on which cause they emphasize; homophobia, religious zealotry, access to guns, mental illness, . . . ), we need to remember that we are more likely to die in a traffic accident (as the signboard counts of YTD fatalities remind us) than in a mass shooting, yet that fear is not as visceral. Continue reading “Profitable and Harmful Fear”

Expanding the Terrorist Label

NYDailyNewsRobert Dear’s attack on the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs just over a week ago and the shooting in San Bernardino last week have brought the question of who is identified as a terrorist back into the limelight. Lots of people have highlighted how the ethnicity or religious identification of the attacker has often influenced whether the attacker is identified as a terrorist or a mentally disturbed individual in a lone wolf attack. The Daily News cover following the San Bernardino shootings (4 December 2015, pictured above) illustrated this critique by identifying Ronald Dear, Dylan Roof, Adam Lanza, and James Holmes as terrorists, as well as the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre. In this cover and statements from figures like Mike Huckabee (calling Dear’s actions “domestic terrorism”), the critiques of the reluctance to apply the terrorist label to white Christian attackers have won a victory, of sorts. Continue reading “Expanding the Terrorist Label”

The Memory That Forgets: The Women in Military Service for America Memorial

Women in Military

At the small liberal arts university where I work, we offer a travel course entitled “The Rhetoric of War.” The course examines the way that rhetorics (both verbal and graphic) depict war, patriotism, and the nation-state in the American context. Midway through the semester, the class takes a whirlwind trip to Washington D.C. in order to directly engage the ways in which war is memorialized.

My friend and colleague, Dr. Amy Milakovic, is one of the faculty who teaches that course; she has a forthcoming paper about the experience, with particular focus paid to the Women In Military Service For America (WIMSFA) Memorial. As Dr. Milakovic argues, the attempt to honor military women at WIMSFA happens through a narrative that works only to the degree that it actually diminishes women. WIMFSA achieves this by reinforcing traditional gendered stereotypes at the same time that its physical appearance emphasizes invisibility and insignificance, two terrible ironies achieved in a place that claims to highlight and celebrate women in the military. Continue reading “The Memory That Forgets: The Women in Military Service for America Memorial”

War of Words

Picture 6I assume you’ve heard plenty of news from the Hamas/Israel conflict that’s happening right now, particularly the back and forth over the innocent civilians who are either being terrorized by rocket attacks into Israel or the innocent civilians being killed daily in Gaza. Or, to rephrase, maybe you’ve heard the arguments for why it is or is not improper to consider certain people as civilians, i.e., arguments for why so-called non-military targets are as legitimate as any and not just the unfortunate (or perhaps inevitable) “collateral damage” that comes with war. Continue reading “War of Words”

Business as Usual

memorialdaysaleToday is Memorial Day in the U.S. — a federal holiday marking a time to remember the past sacrifices of members of the armed forces.

In many cases, of course, “sacrifice” is a euphemism for death.

But it’s also a day that marks blockbuster sales — “half-off tops and shorts!” Continue reading “Business as Usual”

Making the Familiar Grotesque

soldiersThe media here in the U.S. is currently filled with stories marking the 20th anniversary of the massacre of scores of the minority Tutsis in Rwanda, at the hands of dominant Hutus. Begun after the deadly April 6, 1994, attack on President Habyarimana‘s plane — a Hutu himself — 800,000 Tutsis (the number usually reported) were scapegoated in the following weeks, many killed by neighbors or hacked to death with machetes…, an atrocious event by any measure, no doubt. Continue reading “Making the Familiar Grotesque”