Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
May 26, 2004

And Porcupines Shall Overrun Her Houses

This photo, shot in 1956, is of the ruins of Babylon. It’s from a series of vintage photographs of Iraq from the University of California Riverside’s Museum of Photography.

Looking at the ruins of mighty Babylon, I found myself ruminating on the nature of empire. They rise, they fall, they inspire new
iterations and then those fall. Babylon lies in ruins, as does Rome. Rome packed a lot of resonance, though — Charlemagne in the 9th century, the Ottonians in the 10th and 11th centuries, Fascists in the 20th century…they looked back to Rome and tried to evoke that glory. And where are they now? Empires cannot sustain themselves. Not even in this modern day. Maybe even especially in this modern day.

America is going through its own imperial flirtation now, albeit without the eagle-topped standards, and sure we might be able to keep it going for a while, despite the cost to our reputation. But for how long?

It’s difficult not to think about the poem “Ozymandias” (for those of you without a copy of Shelley in your back pocket, I provide this
link), and to hope that our Administration asks themselves the
question: “Which makes more sense — to have had the statue, even if it crumbles, or never to have had the statue at all?”

(>>From our Guest Blogger: Karen, here.)

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