May 24, 2011

Attack on the Heartland

I’m not sure if this is a media phenomenon, a cultural reflex, or both, but the coverage of U.S. catastrophes seems to automatically and fundamentally activate patriotism and the American character, as if the disaster is somehow an attack on the country. I think that’s why so many “aftermath” photos go out of their way to include the flag.

Maybe I’m stretching a bit here, but I can also see the power of the photo of this demolished grain elevator coming from a direct hit on “our amber waves of grain,” especially in the midst of the highly politicized economic debate.

(At the same time, those formerly shiny and pristine structures are also somewhat reminiscent of containment vehicles/Fukushima … but then, we’re not supposed to talk about the vulnerability of U.S. nuke plants and America’s energy “security,” are we? )

Finally, every natural attack on America is known to conjure images of faith — specifically, the Cross, Jesus and the Christian ethic. (See how Anderson makes a point of this one, enough to shoot it himself.)

In a domestic disaster, We, The People (or, we, the faithful) might take an insult, but we’ll also recover.

Update: As I was saying….

(photo 1: Larry W. Smith/EPA caption: The hospital is seen in the background past damage after a large tornado hit the town of Joplin, Missouri, USA, 23 May 2011. The tornado caused damage to a large portion of the town and the city’s hospital and school. photo 2: Orlin Wagner / AP caption: Joplin was not the only area that saw a twister over the weekend. Reading, Kan., also was hit, with one person killed. This grain elevator was part of the debris field there on May 2.) photo 2:  caption photo 3: Charlie Riedel / AP. caption: Lightning from a severe thunderstorm flashes in the distance beyond a crucifix in a cemetery near Easton, Kan., Saturday, May 21.)

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Michael Shaw
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