Calvin Whitehurst



Milwaukee, WI



Digital Collages

Death Was Given to the Page


Place and Time Museum


Artist Statement






The Postwar Hangover or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Summer Vacation
       September 7th, 2013

        Whether we would like to acknowledge it or not there are United States submarines and ships in the Mediterranean Sea poised to attack Syria with missiles in retaliation for the use of chemical weapons on its own civilians. I can't help but notice the complete "about face" that many in the United States have had in opinion towards war since the invasion of Iraq or Afghanistan. It was only about ten years ago that the majority of the public was for intervening in Iraq's creation of supposed weapons of mass destruction or busting up Al Qaeda strongholds in Afghanistan. Certainly both of these conflicts or wars were expensive and long lasting, we have still yet to even end operations in Afghanistan, but what I can't wrap my mind around is why the public was so supportive of such damaging war but now can't even stand the thought of enforcing egregious human rights violations in a new century. Over the past few weeks I have seen a lot of individuals sound off about if its a good idea to bomb military complexes in Syria and it has been almost impossible to find anyone in support for these attacks. It seems that many wonder why the United States has become the law enforcement for the world, or how more violence creates peace. Some have voiced that many children have been killed by chemical weapons already so how would bombs not create the same danger. I again can't help but wonder why these questions weren't asked more than ten years ago when we invaded other countries in the Middle East. Perhaps the public was scared of more terrorism or maybe they had thought that we had a responsibility to make other countries democratic as well.

       A lot of my artwork from years past has been a bit critical of the public's view on world affairs. I've discussed why its important to not just rest on what you've always been told to think but rather trust some of your own instincts. I've also said its important to regularly ignore these instincts and carefully consider the opposite of what you strongly believe in. What I believe I'm seeing now is a country that has made one too many rash decisions. I think it is ultimately good to be anti-war but when it has become easier to become anti-action I think you have essentially become apathetic. Even the coverage of this possibly serious action on the news is completely understated and is just now being briefly discussed. This is because news outlets are being told by their viewers that they are just generally uninterested. Are Americans going through a sort of post-war hangover? Did they perhaps go too far with the patriotism or nationalism that cast us into wars that cost billions of dollars unnecessarily just a few years earlier?

        A few nights ago I watched the first football game of the season. To open up the season they had Keith Urban, a very popular country singer, perform before the game. His first song was an all too typical party song about summer vacation that would have been uncharacteristic a decade ago. I recalled that I had heard many songs like this recently and began to think about how this type of music completely ignores what it used to be only a short time ago. There have been several other songs like this within the last few years that just speak about the simple things like beer, worn in blue jeans, pick up trucks, and successfully earned freedom. These songs are nothing but frivolous fluff in terms of subject matter when you hearken back to war time country music in the early 2000's. Country artists were performing songs that were so patriotic that they made war seem like a citizen's personal vendetta against an evil enemy that had insulted their very livelihood. The messages country listeners get now are very light and laid back. They are told to sit in a boat all summer long and drink beers, wear a cowboy hat while wading through waist deep water, and watch the sunset while contemplating a job well done by our troops that sacrificed so much for our freedom. The most blatant switch out of any of these artists has to be Toby Keith. His song "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)", which illustrated and legitimized American anger against terrorism, was released in the summer of 2002. It was a massive hit and revived patriotic country music as a trend that would last for years. Later in 2011 Keith released a song entitled "Red Solo Cup" which is roughly ignoring the failed war effort that he had promoted years ago and encouraging listeners to buy a keg of beer, throw a party, and fill up a red plastic cup to celebrate nothing.

        What I'm trying to say here is that contemporary country music perfectly expresses the spirit of the United States even if you listen to it or not. It can be used as a barometer to show what average Americans concerns are. If American citizens would have thought about the consequences of extensive wars in the first place they may not be ignoring important decisions that face them now. My opinion is that the invasion of Iraq was fundamentally wrong, solved nothing, and caused the economic collapse of 2008. I also believe that the Syrian military did use chemical weapons against civilians that opposed the government. I think that the world has a responsibility to show President Assad that this type of action is unacceptable whatever way that it can. To ignore this is a mistake comparable to when the United States invaded Iraq. These decisions can not be undone. As usual I am on the fence about the main issue at heart but I know for sure that becoming complacent, apathetic, or unaware is truly the worst action that can be taken.

All images and text are property of Calvin Whitehurst