The Disasters of War

Last Tuesday, I went with my Swiss relative, Otto, to see the “Goya in Times of War” exhibit at the Prado Museum. The exhibition was incredibly moving in that it portrayed the entire range of Francisco de Goya as a painter and a human. While walking from painting to painting and room to room, you were witness to how the war in Spain had transformed Goya, consumed him, and tore him to pieces. You alternate between portraits of royalty and nobility to his “Disasters of War” depicting torture and other horrors of war suffered by an occupied civilian population.

Not only did Goya become one of the first ever photo-journalists, he also marked a very definite change in the role and purpose of the artist and his subject matter. Prior to the “Disasters of War”, scenes of war were almost exclusively glorious propaganda of military victory and accomplishment.

No matter how you look at the exhibit, you cannot deny that there is a timelessness about the commentary each sketch makes on occupation and suffering (I immediately think about the book I am presently reading on the Crusades), and there is a contemporary aura of protest. Some images look like they could have been snaps shots at Abu Ghraib, making us look and feel like something out of an unglorious past.

Then this morning, I watched the video podcast of The Bill Moyers Journal entitled “Body of War” discussing the upcoming film documentary of the same name by Ellen Shapiro and Phil Donahue about an injured American soldier who returns from Iraq. Now I do not have the bleedingest of hearts and am not 100% against war under all circumstances. But when faced with the basic facts and looking at how the war has destroyed American lives and families, not to mention how it has destroyed civilian life in Iraq (and the U.S.’s interests in the Middle East), there is no other choice than to be outraged.

And all of it happened under the willing eyes of our government (including Senators McCain, Clinton, and others) a permissive press, and a clueless populace. People should be hanging out more at museums.


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