Thursday, April 24, 2008

Time to Take Notice

If you have not seen it yet, you need to take a look at the cover of the current edition of Time Magazine. The cover shows the famous Rosenthal photograph of the marines at Iwo Jima with one modification. Instead of hoisting flag, the marines are hoisting a tree. The feature of the issue is How to Win the War on Global Warming and it is only the second time in the magazine's history that the edging is a color other than red.

This was a bold move by Time and they knew there would be a response. Many veterans are voicing how they are offended by the cover. One Iwo Jima veteran is quoted as saying "Whoever did this is going to hell." Check out some of the comments on the ecorazzi blog. This cover has people fired up and split down the middle.

When Lester Brown was at Lasell College earlier this winter. He stressed that we need a war-time effort immediately to combat global change. The effort is not just about slowing global warming. We need this effort to ensure we can feed all the people on the planet. It breaks my heart to hear about the increasing number of food shortages around the world. In this cover, Time was trying to capture this sentiment that a war-like effort is needed. As unsettled as the world was in the 1940's, imagine the global conflicts when nations don't have enough food.

Many older members of the audience that night shared stories of World War II and the sense of patriotism that made the war effort work. American patriotism is about love of country and a commitment to the welfare of the planet (see the Declaration of New Patriotism). Americans have an opportunity to do something even greater than what was accomplished in World War II. We have the opportunity, as Lester Brown would say, to "mobilize to save civilization." The Iwo Jima photograph is one of the great symbols of American patriotism. People are proud of what America did in World War II and this photograph captures that emotion. I think Time Magazine is not only saying in this cover that a war-time effort is needed, but also that we need a renewed sense of patriotism. Not just a patriotism for our country, but for our planet.

I'm sorry that the Time cover offends veterans. Please don't be offended. It is because of your efforts that Time Magazine has the freedom to print what they want. Time is using a photograph that is very iconic to impress upon Americans the critical situation we face. We have the potential to do something even greater than what we accomplished in World War II. Now we need to mobilize to make it happen.

1 comment:

Denny Frey Jr. said...

Great post, Michael! Your comments about the iconic nature of this symbol, the service of our veterans, and the high ideals of true patriotism and the freedom of speech make eminent sense. As you may recall, when Janet Larson presented a further discussion of Plan B: 3.0 to our Lasell Community, I raised with her the thorny issue of modern (oft times militant) nationalism. My question to her was not well-phrased, and as a consequence I don't think it made a lot of sense at the forum or to her.

Here, though, is a great example of what I was trying to get at: That is, the reaction of some veterans to "Time"'s use of this image is probably mirrored by a lot of Americans who feel that the environmental movement is too global in its approach and thus threatens "our" national security. To be sure, Lester Brown and Janet Larson advocate shifting the priorities of Americans to realize that environmentalism is central to "our" national security, but using the examples and imagery of our efforts in World War II will prove problematic. Indeed, since our common history of World War II is so thoroughly suffused with militant nationalism (as opposed to true patriotism), I fear that the environmental message will provoke knee-jerk reactions and backlash rather than thoughtful and critical dialogue on the matter. Instead of concentrating on World War II as our model for action, we should challenge Americans to re-consider what it means to be a patriot and what it means to be a citizen.

Thanks for bringing this to my attention, and thanks so much for encouraging me to comment on your post. One of these days we'll get to play some hockey together; in the meanwhile, what do you think about designing a green ice-rink for men's and women's hockey at Lasell?

Denny Frey Jr., Ph.D.
Assoc. Prof. of History
Lasell College