narratives of the nameless: remember to forget

Constantly changing traditions and a constantly changing confrontation and relationship with death. Does remembrance amount to a merely symbolic gesture of observing a few moments silence,laying a wreath at these tombs of the nameless, which is actually a kind of cynical recruiting mechanism that reinforces the authority of the nation state. Oddly, do these haunting rituals absolve the failures of the past only to become redeemed in a new, even more dangerous moment of failure of the moment.Fallen soldiers, fallen language, fallen memory. forget, forget, forget. We pick up scattered fragments of real historical experience, splinters and brief flashes; like Baudelaire dangling on the threshold of forgetting, an amnesia resulting in a stepping outside of history. But to step outside of conventional history, we cross a boundary, uncharted waters into a world of involuntary memory. A radical confrontation with a suppressed past that negotiates new conceptions of time.

So, remembering and forgetting intersect at a space where time is reflected through images, or is mediated by images.  A when and where that is forgotten in the search for a universal history, a lunge at redemption. It means, ironically,that what we remember is nothing except what we have forgotten. We remember only what was forgotten, a remembrance of forgetting.  They are not quite identical, but very close. the past that emerges from the recesses in our memory is not exactly the same as the past that was actually experienced, since this time in memory is only a metaphor; and what we remember are the transitional elements, the instants that escape the spatial order. Hence,  memory is shining instant of an experience,absent of any  temporality even though its dependent  on the lapse of time, though from a different chronological system. Like the mystic and psychic channelers have discovered,   memory, surprisingly,  does not revert toward itself, an effort to catch and overtake the past which lags behind. Memory is not ahead of itself. It has to wait for time to come up beside it, somewhat knowingly or unknowingly. Memory then rather than an exercise of regression towards an unknown past, is frozen and dormant, waiting until it wakes up in the misty fog of the future.  As Walter Benjamin remarked,  the experiences of memory are not time, but  timelessness, which could be termed the death of time. That is, the past and future are not remembered in memory, “but the self in its absence is now re-presented as a forgetting through images. Memory sees itself fleetingly as eternally present in the instant of forgetting and aging.” In sum, forgetting does not seem to be dependent on remembering, and we continually  forget much that we had never intended to remember in the first place.

The latest Call of Duty video game generated $400 million in sales in its first 24 hours in stores, breaking its own record set this time last year. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is the third game in the military shooter series to set such a record. Last year, Call of Duty: Black Ops raked in $360 million in its first 24 hours on sale….

Read More:’s-vision-of-hope-and-despair-by-raymond-barglow/ ---Benjamin:A Klee drawing named “Angelus Novus” shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe that keeps piling ruin upon ruin and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress

Michael Nass: one of the strongest and strangest memories I have of collective mourning. The memory concerns the televised ceremony on Memorial Day 1984 of the dedication of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for the War of Vietnam. I still recall very vividly sitting in a small tavern in Boston around noontime with just a couple of other patrons and a bartender in the room, all strangers to me and, I think, to one another, watching on TV without comment the ceremony at Arlington National Ceremony whereby the unidentified remains of a U.S. serviceman were consecrated as part of the Tomb of the Unknowns containing the unidentified remains of soldiers from three previous American wars, the first two World Wars and the Korean War.

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The setting was something right out of the Laws, flags everywhere, officers decked out in full military regalia, a single coffin with an American flag draped over it, and then, presiding over it all, the American Pericles, President Ronald Reagan, larger than life in this ceremony of death, secular leader of the free world, at once president and priest and intercessor between us, all of us watching him on TV, and the Judeo-Christian God. With one hand outstretched toward this God, and the other turned downward toward the casket, Reagan concluded his speech by speaking in our name, or in the name of our nation, to this nameless soldier, speaking to him in the second person without a proper name, appealing to God to take him in glory from this mortal realm. Presenting the Medal of Honor to this unknown soldier, Reagan concluded:

Let us, if we must, debate the lessons learned [from this war] at some other time: Today we simply say with pride, “Thank you, dear son. May God cradle you in His loving arms. We present to you our nation’s highest award, the Medal of Honor, for service above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy during the Vietnam Era.”…

---Memorial Day. 1971.---Read More:

…Part of the reason I can still hear the echo of these words, the ghost of Ronald Reagan, nearly twenty years later, is, I think, that I heard history’s remains , them in public, that I had to check my emotions as I heard them because I was in public, and because I could tell by the attention and the silence in the tavern that my emotions were shared, profoundly shared. And shared, no doubt, by millions like us across the nation, a collective mourning  filmed before a live audience but staged and scripted for satellite transmission to TV screens from coast to coast. Though my fellow patrons and patriots there in Boston were probably just as cynical as I was about these kinds of ritual events, and especially about the Vietnam War, though we all saw the flags and pomp for what they were, though we were well aware that the great communicator before us was no intercessor or priest for our nation, but simply someone who knew how to play one on TV, we were all deeply moved. I don’t know whether I had already read at that time Kathleen Hall Jameson’s brilliant work on Reagan rhetoric, but I think I already knew some of its guiding principles. And yet, despite this knowledge, I was moved, moved by the ceremony, moved by the death of a young man, and yet also—because this second thought came quickly on the heels of the  first—moved and deeply disturbed by the terrifying thought that with this one ceremony all the horror and uncertainty, all the lies and deceptions of Vietnam had been recuperated, lifted up, transformed into a beautiful or glorious death. As if—and this was clearly its intention—all the protests, all the soul-searching, all the criticisms, all the anxiety of all our Apocalypse Nows, had been put to work in the service of our national interest, the remains of the unidentified victim of the Vietnam War joining those of three other wars in the American pantheon called Arlington National Cemetery….

---For two weeks in April, former slaves had worked to bury the soldiers. Now they would give them a proper funeral. The procession began at 9 a.m. as 2,800 black school children marched by their graves, softly singing “

Brown’s Body.” Soon, their voices would give way to the sermons of preachers, then prayer and — later — picnics. It was May 1, 1865, but they called it Decoration Day. On that day, former Charleston slaves started a tradition that would come to be known as Memorial Day.--- Read More:

…Though I did not put it in these terms at that time, I remember thinking that, from now on, when it comes to Vietnam, there shall be no mourning. Assuming that there was ever a time for mourning Vietnam, it had been proclaimed over by presidential decree. From now on, I thought, it would do no good mourning Vietnam, for with the burial of those unidentified remains everything in us that could not be identified, all our doubts and all our fears, all our anxieties and uncertainties, would be memorialized, glorified, and forgotten: sublated by presidential decree and a Medal of Honor. Read More:

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Michael Nass:despite the many declarations of its imminent demise, the nation-state still remains pretty eVective at glorifying, recuperating, lifting up and putting to work the blood that is spilled, or the bones that are buried in its soil. So good had we become at remembering, so wrapped up had we become in it, that we were clearly well on our way to forgetting. As Lyotard once put it, memorial history “nous emballe”—it wraps us up and gets us wrapped up, wraps us up in a flag and gets us wrapped up in a national ideology— like the one I saw conveyed in the gestures of Ronald Reagan back in 1984.)…

---In the United States, November 11th is Veterans Day and we have composed several post over the last three years detailing the role of The Coca-Cola Company during America's conflicts. Yesterday, there was a fantastic event at the Company headquarters where we announced a new five year partnership with the USO. I like the painting... it represents so many branches of service. The interesting thing about this painting is that we recently acquired it from our Canadian Headquarters in Toronto. I am not quite sure what it was doing up there, but now it is home in Atlanta. --- Read More:

…And yet, over the years, I have continued to think back on this extraordinary event in my own life and in the life of our nation. I have often thought that despite my concerns that the Reagan rhetoric of mourning—whose necessity for a nation I am not here contesting— overcame in one gesture of the hand all the uncertainties that surfaced during what Reagan called the “Vietnam Era,” the fact that a tomb exists in our national cemetery commemorating the remains of unidentified or unknown soldiers leaves open a gaping wound at the very heart of the glorious death. Though they are buried as symbols of other unknown soldiers buried elsewhere, and so represent to some extent the sacrifices of all those killed in war, whether identified or unidentified, these unclaimed pieces of matter, these bones without a history’s remains  proper name, remain—an unidentifiable specter that haunts our collective mourning and, by resisting our knowledge and our narratives, makes it interminable. These remains remain to claim us, I thought, in some very powerful way, reminding us that the separation of the dead from everything that remains for us the living, and so the separation of the dead from their very name and history, remains for us more palpable here, the absence more present and more pressing. Read More:

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Benjamin aims always to fracture the everyday forms that define the world, thereby making it subject to radical re-interpretation and reconstruction. Even the destiny of prior generations becomes, for Benjamin, open-ended and in need of completion. In keeping with the teachings of the Kabbalah, Benjamin regards redemption not only as the coming of the Messiah but also as a human tikkun that rescues even the past. In a letter to Benjamin, the Frankfurt School philosopher Max Horkheimer objected that Benjamin’s view about the “incompleteness of the past” falsifies history: “Past injustice has occurred and is done with. The murdered are really murdered.” Benjamin would not have disagreed with this. To be sure, death is irreversible. Yet he submits in his Theses on the Philosophy of History that

The past carries with it a temporal index by which it is referred to redemption. There is a secret agreement between past generations and the present one. Our coming was expected on earth. Like every generation that preceded us, we have been endowed with a weak Messianic power, a power to which the past has a claim. That claim cannot be settled cheaply…. even the dead will not be safe from the enemy if he triumphs. And this enemy has not ceased triumphing.

Our “secret agreement” with past generations is not just to remember what they went through, but to take what Benjamin calls “a revolutionary chance in the fight for the oppressed past.” Read More:’s-vision-of-hope-and-despair-by-raymond-barglow/

… Likewise, Benjamin understands this experience as solidarity, which emerges from the notion of remembrance; solidarity as the attitude that looks toward the other not because the power he holds – that feature admirable and admired by bourgeoisie society – but for his potentiality to develop happiness. The experience as solidarity is guided to the other’s necessities and wants. Thus the subject of experience sets his sights on the neediness and poverty of the present whose overcoming opens the way to hope, and is addressed to happiness – ‘the idea of happiness is indissolubly bound up with the image of redemption’ [Benjamin 1940, thesis II, 389]. We cannot understand this experience without the orientation toward the realization of mankind; orientation that rises from the privation of the present, from the misery and suffering that predominates in history. The experience of suffering is translated into a gesture of compassion to the other, who is not resigned to its luck. This experience as solidarity is given as a vital necessity; no one questions its grounds or legitimacy: ‘All living beings have a claim to happiness for which it would not in the least ask any justification or grounds’ [Horkheimer 1995, 34-5]. Thus, solidarity with the man forced to suffering and death is called compassion, a feeling that is inherent to man. Read More:

…“Let’s go back to the beginning of Veterans Day. It used to be Armistice Day, because at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, World War I came to an end…Veterans Day, instead of an occasion for denouncing war, has become an occasion for bringing out the flags, the uniforms, the martial music, the patriotic speeches…Those who name holidays, playing on our genuine feeling for veterans, have turned a day that celebrated the end of a horror into a day to honor militarism. As a combat veteran myself, of a ‘good war,’ against fascism, I do not want the recognition of my service to be used as a glorification of war. Veterans Day should be an occasion for a national vow: No more war victims on the other side; no more war veterans on our side.”

–Howard Zinn

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