Featured here are two related yet contrasted illustrations I produced on weddings in the military. Strangely I was working on these separate commissions during last week before they were released for publication. And both come on the heels of my producing a painted interpretation of the image of Private First Class Bradley Manning – in uniform, which is significant. See “Truth Is..” art piece. Manning is the jailed alleged WikiLeaks whistle. I was also recently commissioned to draw a 90 year old Pearl Harbor veteran in his whites.
My first assignment (above) came from a young soldier, Josh, and his civilian wife Heather in Honolulu. They wanted a drawing based on their wedding photo. Josh was uncomfortable about his beard in the wedding photo since he said it was not uniform code. Simple, I gave him a clean shave. I was also able to strictly detail his uniform badges that were blurred in the ragged wallet photo that Josh gave me. Josh, stationed in Oahu, had been deployed to the Afghanistan War at least once and awaiting more moving orders.
Having met Josh and Heather, it appeared obvious that the couple have a heterosexual relationship. But, not so, for the military couple in my other art assignment (below). The Honolulu Weekly, an independent newspaper ordered the cover illustration. Here the bride and groom were given made-up names, Foster and Amy, and mannequin figures to protect their identity. They are the subjects of an intriguing feature story by Ashley Lukens in the current issue, Feb 23, 2011, titled: “A Marriage of Convenience - Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. The gay and lesbian couple married while serving in the military to have the effective benefits that married couples are allowed.
As an artist it was challenging to approach the complexity of a changing military make-up: indicating both genders, presenting a cross over of traditional “toys” (guns and roses), and deleting facial identity. Perhaps it was a little too much to further stamp out individuality by attempting to loose them all together in camouflage. It was something of joy to “gayify” the uniforms and badges. As I was working I kept singing Universal Soldier by Buffy Sainte-Marie in my head. I changed the original word ‘blame’ to ‘same’: “He’s the universal soldier and he really is the same..”. I was thinking an open gay community in the military might change the world as we know it.
What if the general acceptance of people, such as gays, not only in the U.S. military, but forces of the world, leads to some grave understanding of individuality and humanity? This would jeopardize the culture of war, lies, fear, violence and concentrated profit making. Permanent peace could ensure which would threaten the security of the Pentagon and the dirty capital enterprise of hate.
The prospects of the military in the event of permanent peace are taken seriously at top level. I recall a televised panel discussion in the U.S. (in the late 90s, maybe on CSPAN) on this subject that included top brass and to my surprise, Margaret Thatcher. Apart from the topic itself I was struck that Thatcher blatantly declared to the live audience that the Gulf War was “about oil” something that she repeatedly denied, and I guess lied about, while being UK Prime Minister, and in her capacity to direct UK forces into that joint war.
With great relief to those with concerns that the military and humungous weapon contracts might become displaced by the onset of a peace economy, the attacks of September 11, 2001 arrived as if on queue with apparently more inside and collaborative motives than simple foreign ones. So “W” Bush’s War on Iraq, War on Terror, War of the Patriot Act and War on Peace were fully accomplished. I have searched on line but cannot find this ‘peace and the future of the military’ video.
For me, the Weekly story strikes some cord in the complexity of engineering war, I mean real and lasting war, when all the while humanity is evolving and the symmetry of peace wants to flow like the gift of water.
It is interesting that Bradley Manning is widely known to be gay despite the don’t ask, don’t tell policy. It has all the while been the law during all the publicity about his sexuality. [Perhaps it was WikiLeaked!] How can the young soldier carry on the known life of being gay on one hand and the career life of being a sexual unknown on the other? This example probably is a bad one since the coming out of his sexual identity is minuscule in the face of the needs of his coming out of his torture cell. But it shows the “set-up” of shame and absurdity inherent in DADT.
The Weekly reports that although President Obama repealed DADT on December 22, 2010, the change won’t be affective for months: “the new law requires that the president, the secretary of Defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that the new regulations are consistent with standards of military readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention”.
Here, the truth of one’s identity is a major blow to the generals. It sounds awfully complex that simple truth in the military affects the very fabric of the institution. Again, this aspect of truth in Government goes to the heart of why Bradley Manning is subject to punishment and inhumane treatment in solitary confinement in a U.S. brig without a trial. Manning gets it both ways. For him the U.S. military must be a just a uniform code of lying. Perhaps if Obama’s new Can Ask, Can Tell principle is applied to other right to know matters, Manning will be free.