T. Kaori Kitao - 03.24.03
Five Days into the War with Iraq


War is no spectator sport.
Or is it? Is it?

Take jousting.
It was a combat.

But in peacetime,
men jousted to keep up their skill
ever ready to engage in a combat
on the battlefield.

Athletic exercises trained the body
to make men fit and ready
just in case they had to go and fight
on the battlefield.

But, played in make-believe,
jousting was a game,
but as in the war, so in the game,
there were victories and there were defeats.

Then, those who did not need the skill
could sit and cheer
and partake in the excitement
anticipating who will win and who will lose.

Those who were unwilling to join or unfit to play
could also sit and cheer
and enjoy the participants' changing fortunes
from a distance without sweat and pain.

Games were mock battles waged for fun,
one on one or in paired teams.
Wars were games played for life and death,
one on one or in paired teams.

So, wars and games had strategies, or game plans,
and spoke these same words.

Who's winning?
Who's losing?

Isn't war a spectator sport?



But war is brutal; war is cruel.
War decimates.

Those who stood helpless in the midst of a blitz,
with walls crumbling down all around,
the deafening blast too near overhead --
they can remember that war is no sport.

Those who stood in the hissing rain of incendiaries
that seemed never to cease,
houses ablaze as far as the eye could see --
they can remember that war is no spectacle.

Those who saw dead bodies strewn all around
charred, mangled, abandoned,
those who heard the screams of the dying,
those who smelled the odor of rotting bodies --
they can remember that war is no spectator sport.

But we all like conflagrations.
Don't we? Don't we?

A fire in the neighborhood always attracts onlookers.
A whole town on fire is no doubt a spectacle
for those who stand at a safe distance,
across the river, up on a hill,
offering a commanding view of a sea of fire.

Spectators gather and have a great time,
the event of a lifetime,
thrilling to experience,
exciting to remember.

Fire, to be sure, is spectacular.
But what about those engulfed in the spectacular blaze,
choking in the smoke, no way out,
whose screams were muffled in its infernal roar?

In the throes of excitement but from a safe distance
spectators don't see the poor lost souls
and don't think about them, not until much later.
The spectacle obliterates the distant victims.

Television does exactly that and does so spectacularly.
It makes war into a spectator sport.



This is no fault of the media, of course.
That is what television does --
show and tell, and show more, still more.

Broadcasters proudly explain
that they bring the reality of war into your living room,
reporting on its progress minute by minute,
in pans and close-ups and in aerial views.
Isn't it exciting?

Who's winning?
Who's losing?

Reporters want to do their job well.
They do it dutifully and earnestly,
to inform accurately and honestly.

Stations boast the size of their spectatorship
when they preempt their regular programs
in order to show us the war
day and night,
hour by hour.

Come and watch our reality show,
our truly irrestible reality show.

Who's advancing?
Who's retreating?
Who's fleeing?
Who's dying?

Television makes war look like a spectacle,
because there are spectators who clamor for it.
They want to see the war made into a spectator sport.

But the spectacle of war obliterates its true horrors.
It veils the horrors of living in the war.
It veils the horrors of dying in the war.

The intention is good -- yes, so sadly.
The effort is genuine -- yes, so sadly.
But how many realize the horrors of dissimulation?

Stand in the midst of a city in blitz.
Stand under the rain of incendiaries,
day in day out
weeks on end.
Then, you will see.

War is no spectator sport.



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