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May 7, 2005

The Snappiest Place on Earth



Yesterday morning — with the LATimes and the NYTimes laying side by side on my kitchen table — I saw these two lead photos at the same time.

The LA Times story had a local angle.  The photo was titled: The Snapppiest Place on Earth.  The caption read:

Fans get the picture at the Disneyland gates as they await the opening for the Anaheim amusement park’s ongoing 50th anniversary bash.  Some camped overnight in cars for the event, which featured Art Linkletter, Julie Andrews and a revamped Sleeping Beauty Castle.

The NYTimes image accompanied a story about violence and kidnapping in Iraq, and how families are feeling the need to keep children under lock and key.  This caption read: 

Ansam Sadak holds a photo of Amir Ali Hamza, 8, her nephew, who was killed Sunday in a car bombing in Baghdad while watching cartoons. 

For me, the juxtaposition was particularly synchronous.  Of course, the photos were about photos, and about seeing and (hopefully) being seen.  Also, the captions share some strangely overlapping details.  I noticed some other connections, though — at least blog-wise.  For example, I had done a post just this week comparing photos of Islamic militants that, coincidentally, were taken against the backdrop of cartoons.  (One of them even featured Mickey Mouse — although a much more figurative one than the little boy with those mitts in the top photo, at bottom left.)  Also, the mashing of these pictures seemed to suggest themes that have been running through the comment threads.  Like the one suggesting that life gets priced more cheaply moving from west to east.  And the heavily recurring one about how the real motivation for the war (so, what else is new?) is the perpetuation of Western values, culture and living standards.

At the simplest level, however, isn’t it strange that American kids are sleeping in their cars for the sake of staking out cartoon characters, while Iraqi kids — for fear of getting snatched up in a car, or being blown up by one — are forced to stay in and kill time by watching cartoons?  Put another way, isn’t it weird to see Americans falling all over themselves to capture video of cartoon characters at the same time Iraqi kids are dying as captives to those characters?

For me, though, what these images really do is mix a country supposedly at war with a country supposedly liberated by one.  Put together, the war remains an abstraction — a blurry snapshot — in spite of every attempt frame to it.

(Revised: 7/7/05 7:45 PST)

(image 1: Mark Boster/Los Angeles TimesMay 6, 2005 in The Los Angeles Times, p. A1.  image 2: Christoph Bangert/Polaris. May 6, 2005 in The New York Times. p. A1)

  • pjr

    Freedom’s on the march all right; all the way to the fucking Magic Kingdom.

  • Dena

    Because we experience no investment or stake in the madness, it remains an abstraction — at best, a blurry snapshot — even when the victims seek to directly confront us with it.
    What I fear, however, is that because there are not immediate rammifications we feel we can get away with it. We can’t. Eventually, inevitably, we will be held accountable… And it won’t be pretty. — It encourages that sort of mute, impotent rage that feeds terrorism.

  • Asta

    Michael, your comments are profound.
    I will probably be haunted today by the story of the Iraqi child, watching cartoons, and losing his life to a car bomber — there are no safe havens in Iraq.

  • PTate in Mn

    “For me, though, these images are really bound together by the way they represent the profound disconnection between a country supposedly at war, and the country actually suffering it.”
    I was glad to see the story about the violence in Iraq on the front page of the NYTimes for a change. Usually they bury the Iraqi news deep inside.
    If you mentally impose the interior space of the Iraq photo on Americans waiting outside the gate in Disney photo, some striking contrasts pop out. In the left third, a cheering American woman and her baby contrast with a sad Iraqi woman: the black-hooded American baby eeriely mirrors the Iraqi woman. In the middle third, the Iraq woman with her dark hair and round neck gown overlaps an excited, dark-haired American woman in a tee shirt snapping a picture.
    Ansam Sadak is in the foreground of the Iraqi picture. The same space in the Disney photo is empty, the center of a triangle formed by the American man checking his view-finder and two happy little boys in blue t-shirts. The face of the murdered boy in the snapshot, Amir Ali Hamza, 8, is equidistant between the two American boys.
    Thank you for seeing the connection between the two photos. Their juxtaposition gives us a chance to see into our mirrored reality: superficial, commercial excitement in one, death and sorrow in the other. The American yang to the Iraqi yin. Pround disconnection indeed. It is almost too painful to contemplate what we have wrought.

  • aethorian

    The Happiest Place on Earth isn’t always the laughing place, as sThig’s recent Disneyland photos reveal.
    Ever notice how you’re always encouraged (usually by one visual media or the other), to go someplace, buy something, or be someone else to find happiness? Once you get there, though, you usually end up in line with a bunch of other people looking for the same thing. The next time you’re waiting anywhere, take a look around at people and note their expressions. It helps if you can catch them off-guard, reflected in a window or mirror, but beware: you might catch yourself, too.
    One lesson I’ve been relearning lately is that happiness, contentment, peace of mind—however you define it—isn’t a destination trip. It’s not where you go, it’s right where you are, right now. A journey easier described than walked, I know, but why waste a lot of time wandering around trying to unearth rainbows?
    Reality, unavoidable as it is, may tarnish Walt Disney’s ideal vision, but the closest Magic Kingdom lies within yourself.

  • Kevin Hayden

    Our investment and stake is in maintaining our humanity via the proper treatment of people. Sadly, as in every war, we have lost sight of that reality, and our humanity has become warped, rusty, and has fallen into disrepair.

  • Annoying Old Guy

    Because other people, who are avowed enemies of the USA, are committing mass murder, it’s the USA’s humanity that’s become warped? With the proper solution apparently being to turn over control of this mother’s life to the people who killed her son. Should it not be the duty of any moral person to fight against such people? Or should we wash our hands as Pontius Pilate did and say “do as you will with your own kind”?

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