. Viewed on 4/20/04.
January 21, 2004, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)
staff placed more than 500 pairs of empty army boots in Chicago's
Federal Plaza to honor U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. Next
to the boots, largeplacards listed the names of the dead soldiers.
photo recalls photos taken of fascist/Nazi assemblies in Germany.
It even appears to be in black and white/Empty Ideology(although
taken in color): the black boots against the grey stone plaza,
bystanders in the distance wearing grey and black, the dark
black distant building surrounding the plaza. However, there
is a marked difference between this formation of empty boots
and the Nazi military rallies. Rather than the fascist state's
One Body, a militarized united people (at the exclusion of
Others), this photo shows a unified absence of bodies. The
effect is almost exactly opposite the intent of the fascist
rally. Here, the repetition of the standard-issue army boots,
the regimented display, and the visible loss of bodies, painfully
highlights the real deaths of all these individual human beings
hidden under fascistic "language rule" euphemisms like "troops,"
"casualties," and "collateral damage". We are shocked out
of the news of numbers and forced to confront each worn-leather,
frayed-lace, scuffed-sole boot and think about the actual
person who is dead now (killed, shot, exploded) and will not
return home to their family and friends.
of February 5, 2004 there have been 547 American soldiers
killed (and 95 members coalition forces killed). There have
been 2,578 wounded. The CNN Special Report offers glossy bar-graph
breakdowns according to Country, Service, Race, Age, and Gender
-Class/Economic Status (prior to enlisting) is not included
as a category of analysis even though that is probably one
of the most determining factors in military recruitment. http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2003/iraq/forces/casualties/
casualties in Iraq are between 8,245 and 10,089 as of February
10, 2004. http://www.iraqbodycount.net/bodycount.htm]
the people have taken violent part in the national liberation
they will allow no one to set themselves up as 'liberators'."
long as the Liberal state and capitalist market offered enough
substitute pleasures, the cult of individualism could prevail."
only did bureaucracy and military apparatus determine the
course of history, but also mass media." (Kuhnl 31)
can be interpreted as a pathological response to a severe
ailment of the body politic." (Berghaus 48)
action of the AFSC could also be read as a demonstration that
the U.S. body politic is sick. People are not engaged with
their national government and their government is conducting
an experiment in "democracy" on the people of Iraq, while
ignoring (or paying dismal attention to) the basic domestic
needs and survival priorities of people in both countries.
The Bush administration, an oligarchy, is similar to the fascistic
hierarchies but instead of one charismatic leader at the top,
the aim is to be closest to the biggest, strongest, most resilient
capitalist industry: weapons/military manufacturers. The current
prevailing political idealogy in the U.S. is without a body.
The empty boots represent the lives lost -for what reason?-
an empty ideology. The presence of this collection of empty
boots in a public (federal) plaza also illustrates/implicates
witnesses to the actions of our government on people to whom
we may have no "personal" connection. The people of both Iraq
and the U.S. are divided within themselves regionally, and
by race/ethnicity/language, and class. These bodiless boots,
in formation, in shared public space, can be seen to erase
some of those individual identity boundaries, reminding us
of some universal connections. We can all understand the end
of a life, the loss of a loved one.
Arendt, in her book Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963), sets up
the argument that when a state organizes itself around Violence,
acts of violence then become the status quo and thus there
is a flip in the average citizen's moral thinking (away from
human dignity): "he would have had a bad conscience only if
he had not done what he had been ordered to do." (Arendt 25)
This echoes Fanon's statement: "Colonialism is not a thinking
machine, nor a body endowed with reasoning faculties. It is
violence in its natural state, and it will only yield when
confronted with greater violence." (Fanon 48)
the U.S. it seems that "moral" activity is now anything that
bolsters this military industry. And yet we are calling this
a Democracy. And we are implanting this form of Democracy
in Iraq -at the cost of many lives. And again, in both countries
the actual voices of the actual people are silenced, ignored
-an empty/missing body politic. This is what this photo speaks
are revolutions from above and revolutions from below. Those
from above generally have a limited life-span, for it is difficult,
if not impossible, to force a new system of rules onto a people
from above." (Joseph Goebbels, 1939) (Griffin 134)