JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, Volume 24, Number 2, 2004 Page: 273
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Nancy K. Miller
Are the woman and the soldiers crying the same tears? What about the
veterans and their loved ones in the audience filmed at the spectacle, not
to mention the film's spectators watching at home or at school? To what
degree is the trauma of bodily injury shareable? Is it possible to cry and
maintain a critical edge, remembering that one never occupies, as Primo
Levi famously admonished, the other's place? I confess that every time
I've watched the final scene ofKim 's Road, where to the background of
taps, the color-filmed sequence of the napalm assault runs through the
adult woman's memory (even as the little girl runs from the fire)-as
created by the film-I've come close to tears, despite my resistance to the
patriotism of the setting and the solemnity of taps. I don't share Kim's
Christian need to forgive, and I don't think we should forget the political
will that created the war. But perhaps the tears Lin hoped to provoke at
the wall are both personal and political-or because she didn't want the
wall to make a statement that could be taken up by either side, these are
more the tears of Aeneas contemplating the representation of the Trojan
wars during his stay in Carthage: "Here, too... there are tears for passing
things; here, too, things mortal touch the mind" (Aeneid, I, 1. 654-56).
The power of the original photograph resides in its refusal of
sentimentality, which is due not only to the figure of the girl at its center,
but also to the figures surrounding her-the other wounded children and
family, and the soldiers in uniform who accompany them on the burning
road. The presence of the soldiers, the contrast between their armed
bodies and the naked girl underscores the avoidability of the disaster-
this is a manmade, not a natural horror. As John Lucaites and Robert
Hariman astutely argue, the presence of the soldiers ambling down the
road, "as if this were an everyday experience," shows that "what is shown
is repeated and repeatable, behavior" (43). The force of the image is such
that spectator is forced to feel implicated if not in the creation, then at least
in the perpetuation of the war. The girl's trauma-the extreme physical
assault on her body-is thus both hers and not hers: the trauma also
touches the spectator whose safety is by definition complicit with what
the girl has lost: civilian protection.2' This is a version of the secondary
trauma of witnessing: the passive wounding of a collective body.
A memorial to a war negotiates the relations between life and death,
civilian and soldier, survivor and victim. How in the context of a war
whose justification had divided a nation could those relations be negoti-
ated in a permanent space? The design for the memorial was chosen
anonymously. But that didn't keep people from commenting, often
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Association of Teachers of Advanced Composition (U.S.). JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, Volume 24, Number 2, 2004, periodical, 2004; (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc28644/m1/19/: accessed July 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .