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Thinking About Frederick’s Days of Reflection On the Human Cost of War

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Yesterday I attended Frederick’s Days of Reflection On the Human Cost of War, organized by Women in Black, Frederick (the Frederick, Maryland branch of a grassroots womens’ peace movement), in conjunction with other groups.

The most engrossing part of the event was the display of combat boots representing the 40 members of the military from Maryland who have died while fighting the war against Iraq.

While there, I took photographs for a photo essay.

I took my turn standing in silent vigil, next to the boots on the steps of the Evangelical Reformed United Church of Christ in downtown Frederick, Maryland.

I thought of how interesting it was that, once again — as with the shoes I wrote about representing Nazi victims of the Holocaust — we have footwear representing casualties of the war.

Similarly, the Paper Clips project I wrote about earlier in the week provided a way for people to contemplate the enormity of the Holocaust by the collection of millions of paper clips. The message I take from these exhibits is that symbols can help people grapple with complicated issues.

Sitting by the boots was a book containing the names of those injured in the war. I checked and it included the name of at least one Iraq war veteran whose injury I wrote about. This brought the issue full circle for me.

The display itself was respectful and non-partisan. Families who asked not to have their child’s image and story listed had their wishes honored. It was not listed as a peace
vigil but as Days of Reflection. As if to reinforce that concept, a reflection of the boots could be seen in a window across the street.

I watched, mute, as people walked by the church in busy downtown Frederick. Some took long breaths as if trying to digest and accept the hard reality that is the casualties of this war. Others averted their eyes as if not looking at the boots would help keep them blissfully ignorant of war’s costs.

It made me think of the fitting title of the exhibit: Eyes Wide Open.

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About Scott Butki

Scott Butki was a newspaper reporter for more than 10 years before making a career change into education... then into special education. He has been doing special education work for about five years He lives in Austin. He reads at least 50 books a year and has about 15 author interviews each year and, yes, unlike tv hosts he actually reads each one. He is an in-house media critic, a recovering Tetris addict and a proud uncle. He has written articles on practically all topics from zoos to apples and almost everything in between.
  • Scott Butki

    The Frederick newspaper ran an article on this

  • There’s an easier way to get people to realize the full cost of war, Scott — ask them to give up their right to mount such a public display, their right to speak out against the government, their right to choose a career path (because someone doesn’t like their choice), their right to partake of the entertainment of their choosing, and their right to move about the country freely.

    I’m not saying war is the only answer, but it’s sometimes the only option left. Especially when dealing with people who loathe the freedoms we enjoy in America.

    War is horrible. Troops dying is horrible. Exploiting those losses for the sake of a political agenda is, well, not as horrible as death, but certainly distasteful and cruel to their families.

  • Scott Butki

    I would not call what they are doing “exploiting those losses.”
    I previously gave this link to those who organized the event and I’ll let them respond to whether that was their intent or the result.

    Is it exploiting the Holocaust victims to show piles of those shoes?

    Surely, Joan, you are not suggesting we should give up our freedom of speech during wartime just because some of those involved – on both sides of the war debate – are idiot extremists? Or because some Iraqis are anti-democratic?

    This exhibit’s point, to me, was not so much “this war is bad” as “let’s reflect on the impact of the war, both on American soldiers but also on Iraqi civilians, the latter of whom does not even neccesarily know what Democracy is.”

  • It might be helpful to read this column published in the
    Frederick News Post
    on May 27th, by this author, about the weekend. It reflects the thinking that led to the weekend…

  • Scott Butki

    Thanks, Beth. Do other people have thoughts about this?