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Falling Bush

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If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Being shallow thinkers, the crew here at News Hits never quite grasped the significance of this staple query in Philosophy 101 classes everywhere.

There is, however, another question worth pondering: When our soldiers arrive home in body bags — there were 32 American deaths in Iraq last week alone — are they any less dead because media cameras are prohibited from recording the event?

It was an article in last Friday’s edition of England’s The Guardian that started us waxing philosophical.

The story featured Army Spc. Artimus Brassfield, a tank driver from Flint who was killed Oct. 24 during a mortar attack on his base in Iraq. Because of the ban on media strictly enforced by the Bush administration, no cameras were present to record Brassfield’s final arrival in America.

“For the first time since war in the television era,” writes The Guardian’s Gary Younge, “the sight of flag-covered caskets arriving to the salute of military colleagues and the tears of mournful relatives are no longer part of the national narrative.”

So, while our commander in chief jets around the country attending fund-raisers in an attempt to fill his coffers with the $200 million he wants to mount his next campaign, the coffins continue to arrive at Dover Air Base in Delaware, landing like trees falling in vacant woods.

It is simple manipulation. In this age of mass media, where public perception is so profoundly shaped by images, the absence of flag-draped coffins in newspaper photos and on nightly newscasts means, that, in the public’s mind, anyway, these deaths fail to completely register. Our head honcho can smugly summon the bravado to dare terrorists to “Bring it on,” and then hide the grim results of that challenge from public view.

Writes Younge: “The bald numbers of the death toll dominate political debate and public disquiet. But the human impact behind those statistics has been scattered to communities throughout the country. The bodies travel from a global conflict to local crises without apparently touching the national consciousness. Even on a regional level the deaths receive scant attention. Detroit is only 60 miles from Flint but Artimus’s death made neither of the city’s two papers.”

He was the 17th soldier from Michigan to die in this war.

Sooner or later, when enough trees fall, somebody is going to notice. And as the coffins begin to pile up, the crescendo of crying will eventually be heard.

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