Tag Archives: war

Word Choice

Recently went to the Korean War Memorial and Museum in Seoul. It is without a doubt the most thorough museum I have ever been to. The first exhibit starts with prehistoric war heads and the last exhibit ends with a piece-by-piece breakdown of the Korean Army’s most recent artillery shells. In between there are four floors full of tanks and jet fighters, recreated battle scenes, and massive relics devoted to seemingly every military engagement Korea has ever faced. Perhaps then it’s no surprised that in a place dedicated to war, there is what can only be called “information overkill.” If you want to feel what it’s like to be bludgeoned in the face by statistics and dates, then this is the place for you.

As I plodded my way the endless slog of battle recreations and strategic maps and old guns, one sight in particular managed to catch my eye, not because of what it looked like, but because of what it said. Located in the middle of one of the many rooms dedicated to the North/South Korean conflict, stood a statue of three massive bronze soldiers all holding grenades, their bodies charging ahead, their faces frozen in defiance. The plaque beneath them read, “Three Human Bombs at the White Horse Hill.”

I stood their thinking about that phrase for while. Three Human Bombs. The words seem hang around in the air after you say them, like black exhaust fumes spat out from a broken down semi truck. Three Human Bombs. What’s so human about a bomb? This phrase is of course a clumsy military euphemism for “suicide bombers,” but everyone knows that that phrase doesn’t sell entry tickets or mugs at the museum gift shop, so Three Human Bombs will have to do.

As I was looking at the statue, I couldn’t help but wonder about the back story for that trio of men. Did they choose to blow themselves up? Did they draw straws? Were they assigned the task by their superiors. If it’s the later I can just imagine how that conversation might have unfolded:

The commander calls three soldiers into his tent

COMMANDER: Remember when I told you men that if we wanted to win this war we were going to need more live ammunition?

SOLDIER: Yes, of course. But what does that have to do with us? [Long pause as reality slowly sets in]

COMMANDER with a somber, knowing look, hands the men a box of grenades, then walks out of the tent.

The three Soldiers stand together in silence…

[End Scene]

Regardless of how that night unfolded, I think it sets a low standard to celebrate people who blow themselves up to kill other people, regardless of how much “bravery” that must have required. The word “human” is really stripped of all meaning when placed next to the word “bomb.” The same type of thing happens when you put the words “vegetarian” and “hot dog” together, or “soft” and “rock.” It just doesn’t add up.  Anyway you slice it, the human race is in a sad state when we start exalting praise onto what amounts to little more than glorified weaponry.

In the end, it makes you question if we aren’t paying attention to the wrong thing entirely. I could easily do a quick Internet search and find thousands of museums dedicated to nothing but war, but the real question is: where are all the museums dedicated to peace?

Related Listening:

“Masters of War” – Pearl Jam

“Weapon of Choice” – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

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Last Stop: Saigon

Sitting in front of the Reunification Palace.

After spending a few days in a near comatose state on the beach, we decided to wrap up our trip in Ho Chi Minh City, or as it’s known to pretty much everyone who lives there, Saigon (the name was changed in 1976 shortly after southern forces fell to the Vietnam’s Peoples Army). Muggy as ever and overflowing with motorbikes, we visited a few of the city’s historical sites, most notably The Reunification Palace and The Vietnam War Remnants Museum, both of which offered a unique perspective to a conflict that usually is only delivered from one side in our hometown history books. For instance, something I never considered is that the war is referred to as the “American War” by the Vietnamese. Just goes to show that there really are two sides to every story. Continue reading

Run DMZ pt. 1.

Always watching: a North Korean soldier conducting surveillance.

For most people, weekends are a chance to get away from arguments and tension and just relax. Well, not this weekend. Instead of watching endless hours of television with a pint of ice cream carefully balanced on my bloated stomach as I normally do, my friends and I decided to visit one of the most politically charged and conflicted locations on the planet: The Korean Demilitarized Zone. Don’t let the name fool you, there’s nothing “demilitarized” about it. This strip of land – 2.5 miles wide and 155 miles long – is filled with over a million land mines and is currently the most heavily armed border in the world. Having only signed a cease fire and not a surrender agreement, these two diametrically opposed nations are technically still at war, and have been for the last 60 years. The DMZ is a fascinating location because it not only embodies so much incredible history, but it is also a physical representation of opposing world views, a line in the sand that says “my way is better than your way.” While one country is a thriving democracy led by a former businessman the other is starving communist regime run by a bat-shit crazy man-child. While one looks to embrace global partnerships and cultures the other has sealed itself off, created the largest military in the world, and is now tinkering with nuclear weapons. The DMZ is where were government, culture, and war all collide – an eerie staring contest with bombs instead of blinks. I could say you could cut the tension with a knife but that would be a gross overstatement, you would probably wouldn’t need more than a spoon. More on this once in lifetime trip coming soon…

A South Korean ROK Soldier stands guard.