Thursday, April 15, 2004

A Fan Falls in Iraq

Learned of this soldier's death on a Pearl Jam fan board that I check periodically.

"Kevin Kolm, a former lacrosse star, was a music fan so passionate about the band Pearl Jam that he had the title of one of the grunge group's earliest hits, 'Release,' tattooed on his back, his father said.

Yesterday, four of his friends emblazoned that same word, as well as the date of their buddy's death, on their arms in an act of remembrance, Thomas Kolm said."

Corporal Kolm and his friends sound like the kind of fans who I might stay away from at a Pearl Jam concert -- big, white, potentially hostile, etc. However, his untimely death makes me focus on the war that is raging and that claimed 68 American lives and many, many more Iraqis last week. While the media is getting better about sharing the consequences of the violence, the war is so far from urgent in most people's minds, even for the activist students with whom I work. I think this might partly be due to the class and race stratification separating people I spend a lot of time with from those who are serving in the military. It also might be due to the stratification within activist movements into pigeon-holed categories divided by "issue." The anti-war march that I attended in New York in March was largely white and seemingly upper middle class, with very few people of color in attendance, unlike the post-9/11 immigrants rights rallies that I have attended. Amongst progressives, there might also be some satisfaction in seeing Bush's war go so badly. Whether it is apathy, class or "cause" stratification, or the progressive wish for the fall of Bush, our inattention to the war has made us complicit in the deaths of people like the 23-year-old Kevin Kolm.

Here are a few lines from "Release" for the late Cpl. Kolm:

i see the world, feel the chill
which way to go, windowsill
i see the world's on a rocking horse of time
i see the birds in the rain
dear dad, can you see me now
i am myself, like you somehow
i'll ride the wave where it takes me
i'll hold the pain...
release me...

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