It must have been the only city manager’s memorandum in history to address the war in Iraq, the American flag, Paris Hilton, Anna Nicole Smith and Britney Spears in three very short paragraphs.
But for a few days, at least, it made Edwin L. Eaton a minor folk hero — one small voice trying to remind the nation what matters and what doesn’t in the million-channel blabfest that is American life.
Mr. Eaton’s May 16 memo took notice of the attention given those three pillars of pop culture, cited a need to “in some small way place things in perspective,” and then went on: “While our society and media outlets appear to be consumed by the activities of the ‘glitterati,’ we tend to forget that each day Americans are anonymously dying in Iraq. I think it only fair that they be remembered and honored. To achieve that end, we hereby direct that American flags throughout the city be flown at half-mast.”
The six flags at city buildings in this Long Island community were then lowered, and will remain that way indefinitely.
Mr. Eaton’s little protest began in the same way as much of American life does: He was watching television. He and his wife were watching a program — he’s not sure which one — when finally he went over the edge. “It was a half-hour of talking about the pretty people, I think it was something about Anna Nicole Smith’s baby teething, and then Britney Spears with her shaved head and wig and then, oh, by the way, five men got killed in Iraq and three are missing and then back to Paris Hilton’s personal trainer,” he said.
The next day he told council members of his idea, and the day after that he sent out his memo. ...
Most people who wrote him applauded his support for the military. Some saw an antiwar message. But Mr. Eaton said he didn’t feel it was the role of Long Beach to cast judgment on the war, and he wasn’t doing that. It was more a show of respect, he said, a request that attention be paid.
And there's this from Paul Krugman, who is in fine form today, in an editorial titled "Trust and Betrayal":
Democratic Party activists were furious [that the Democrats in Congress caved to Bush's fearmongering and passed continued funding for the war without a timetable for withdrawal] because polls show a public utterly disillusioned with Mr. Bush and anxious to see the war ended. But it’s not clear that the leadership was wrong to be cautious. The truth is that the nightmare of the Bush years won’t really be over until politicians are convinced that voters will punish, not reward, Bush-style fear-mongering. And that hasn’t happened yet.
Here’s the way it ought to be: When Rudy Giuliani says that Iran, which had nothing to do with 9/11, is part of a “movement” that “has already displayed more aggressive tendencies by coming here and killing us,” he should be treated as a lunatic.
When Mitt Romney says that a coalition of “Shia and Sunni and Hezbollah and Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda” wants to “bring down the West,” he should be ridiculed for his ignorance.
And when John McCain says that Osama, who isn’t in Iraq, will “follow us home” if we leave, he should be laughed at.
But they aren’t, at least not yet. And until belligerent, uninformed posturing starts being treated with the contempt it deserves, men who know nothing of the cost of war will keep sending other people’s children to graves at Arlington.