3 August 2004
Quietly into the night sky
During World War I, the Service Flag, known more descriptively as the Blue Star Flag, was seen throughout the land, a simple banner with a blue star representing a family member serving overseas, the blue star replaced by a gold star should he be killed in battle. The practice continues to this day; if you haven't seen one lately, well, this Newsday scribe seems to think we've lost interest in such things:
Whatever one thinks of the Iraq war, it's hard to escape the reality that America doesn't have much stomach for fighting anymore. Support for Operation Iraqi Freedom stood at 76 percent in April 2003, according to Gallup. Today, support has sunk to 47 percent. What's caused that huge drop? Mostly, U.S. fatalities just over 900. Heck, during the U.S. Civil War, both sides lost many more men than that in single afternoons, and the fighting lasted four years. But today, America finds itself in a "post-heroic" culture, mostly because of small families. To put it starkly, mothers won't part with their only son, who might also be an only child.
Somehow this doesn't seem plausible. A lot of things have happened since, say, the founding of the Gold Star Moms, and decreasing family size is certainly one of them, but I'd argue that diminishing support for the war is at least partly due to the ongoing efforts by papers such as Newsday to make sure we get a steady dose of bad news from Iraq. Some bad news, of course, is inevitable, and not even the most avid hawks will give this operation a grade of A-plus myself, I'm inclined to award a "gentleman's C" or thereabouts. And if we are indeed in a "post-heroic" culture these days, I suggest it has something to do with the post-World War II fascination with antiheroes, once literary curiosities, now durable archetypes.
Geitner Simmons inquires:
I hadn't heard about the small-families aspect as a factor shaping American public opinion. Is [James P. Pinkerton, the Newsday columnist] on the mark, or is that just op-ed hyperbole?
That, I couldn't tell you. On the other hand, Pinkerton was using this example as an illustration of how our future will be inextricably intertwined with robotics, of all things, so I'm going to assume at least standard fanboy levels of hyperbole.