|RIGHT HAND DOD-044403 by Jenny Holzer (2007)|
|Gabriella Belli, Jenny Holzer, Walter Hartsarich|
But the words... the words... those heartbreaking words on linen... Because of the direct, personal experience I have had as an American writer living overseas targeted by our government, perhaps I know better than many civilians how horrific the behavior of the US government can be, and how extremely difficult it is to communicate such darkness to the people who live in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. Jenny Holzer has done it. She feels: "the material speaks for itself; having torture seemingly normalized is not a positive development."
|in (JIHAD) time by Jenny Holzer (2014)|
Even more than the words of those who had been tortured, what struck me were the words of the Americans themselves. Many, many Americans who love their country, and everything it stands for, tried to stop what was going on. They bravely filed official sworn statements and other documents.
After members of the special forces terrified a redacted prisoner while an interrogator had stepped outside for a break, on February 13, 2002, the interrogator wrote a sworn statement by hand: "I was very upset that such a thing could happen. I take my job and responsibility as an interrogator & as a human being very seriously. I understand the importance of the Geneva Convention & what it represents. If I don't honor it, what right do I have to expect any other military to do so?"
Another redacted document that broke my heart was a letter dated September 26, 2003 from a father "To Whom it May Concern." It starts: "I am writing this letter for my wife and myself. The purpose of this letter is to appeal to you, as a parent, for relief for my son 1st. Lt. ______ in his current situation. I understand that the U.S. Army wants to court martial him and send him to prison."
The father goes to describe himself as a basic, upstanding US citizen, in education for 30 years, appointed by Jeb Bush (?!) to a post that was... redacted. He has friends who are Congressmen. He knows the former governor of Florida. His wife had just retired after spending 17 years as the business manager of their 1000 member church.
His son had led an exemplary life, and wanted to be a career officer. On July 12, 2003, the redacted son wrote to his parents: "Needless to say the Army has made a decision, or helped me make a decision, that I will only serve for 4 years. I still love my country and have faith in her virtues, though she has none in mine. If this goes to court martial it will be broadcast over the news and my name, and yours, will be tarnished forever. You didn't sign up for that, but I did. If this happens I apologize in advance. All I ever wanted to do was to serve and protect those who loved me, and spread freedom to others less fortunate... I have brought hundreds of criminals to prison, captured countless weapons, saved lives of coalition and civilian personnel, have my life threatened on a daily basis from insurgents and criminals alike. Yet all I ever wanted was to be left alone with my platoon so I could continue doing what I love the most..."
Those words struck a deep chord. If they could do that to a soldier who obviously loves his country....
|Phase IV Operations pewter Text: U.S. government document © 2007 Jenny Holzer|
|War Paintings at the Correr Museum|
Jenny Holzer is not the only artist at the international Biennale looking at the past behavior of her country in order to be present and move forward into the future, but because I am American and have personally experienced the shock of how frightening our government can be when it is out of control, it affected me profoundly.
|The Dreamer by Heinrich Maria Davringhausen|
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