Photograph via Flickr by R Barraez D’Lucca.

Last week we asked our readers and contributors what are the obligations of a critic writing about a political work of art. This is one of several responses we will publish throughout the week. The debate started with a review and its follow up.

The debate about Fallen seems a little inconsequential. The work is, first, not all that interesting or original, and, second, is intended specifically for a U.S. audience. These kinds of pieces are always about mourning. While I think most people in the States are aware of Iraqi casualties, our sense of loss is about Americans who were killed. It’s one of the normal consequences of the fact that humanity is divided up into nation-tribes. And it’s also just normal protagonism. Victims from “home” have something to do with “us,” theoretically anyway, while victims from other countries don’t.

All of this becomes more complicated when we try to define what soldiers are versus what we want them to be. There’s very little difference, to my mind, between the armies of Bush-Cheney and the armies of Bin Laden or Hussein. It’s always about old, rich men sending the young into battle. The people, most of them kids, who take up machine guns for causes, are victims, but it’s not that simple. They’re killers, but it’s not that simple either. I feel the same way about Calderon’s army and that of El Chapo Guzman. It’s a sad situation that’s older than gunpowder.

John Sevigny

John Sevigny is a photographer, teacher, writer, and curator, who lives in Central America.

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