This photo is from the Flags of Valor: A memorial for hour Fallen American Heroes exhibit in Saint Louis. When I took it, I envisioned it as part of what I consider my Naive Photography effort. For me, Naive Photography is about presenting staged, wholesome events without any kind of irony or ill will. Its purpose is the purpose of the subjects: to make the subjects happy; and some sort of effort to boost community pride. I believe there are deeper meanings to be found in these kinds of efforts, but I admit I’m having trouble finding them. I recently had a hard drive crash that possibly meant the loss of two years of this kind of work, and I didn’t even care.
Anyway, the point is that when I took this photo, I had no ill will towards these gentlemen, nor against the military, the flag, veterans, the war dead, or anything else. I envisioned it as an Instagram photo, and possibly something for the larger Naive Photography effort. I figured the military would encourage their members participating in this kind of thing. It makes them look good in a way they want to look good, and shows them as an integral part of the community.
But when I asked them for their names so I could put them in the captions, they got very weird and defensive and refused to provide them, saying they were afraid they would get in trouble with the Public Relations people. Perhaps that was true, but I got the impression they used that as an excuse, that there was also some deeper kind of fear. A mistrust of the public. A fear they would be attacked.
I found the whole exchange disturbing. I think it’s a bad sign when the military fears the people. And I think it’s a bad sign when soldiers are even allowed to be anonymous.
And I really can’t imagine what they were afraid of? Did they think I was one of those miltary-hating unicorns, and that I might Photoshop them into a porn image, or something like that?
I say “military-hating unicorns” because the only people I’ve ever met who hate the military were people who served in the military. I don’t think I’ve ever known any civilians who hate the military, certainly not the individual soldiers who serve in it. Sure, I know plenty of people who hate how the politicians have used the military, but that’s a different thing altogether. And I know plenty of people who criticize the military when individual service people commit war crimes and atrocities, such as Mai Lai or Abu Ghraib, but again, that’s not hating the military.
Anyway, I notice it’s 9.11, so maybe this is apropos.