This past weekend, the United States celebrated Memorial Day, a holiday created to remember our war dead. Aside from parades down America’s main streets, though, it has devolved into a fun three-day weekend. The unofficial kick-off of summer, a time to fire up the grill perhaps for the first time of the season, a time when municipal beaches and pools open.
Sunday we went to an outdoor exhibit that brought the original intent of the holiday home: EYES WIDE OPEN, an exhibition on the human cost of the Iraq War.
The exhibition, created by the American Friends Service Committee, features a pair of boots for each U.S. military casualty as well as a field of shoes and a Wall of Remembrance to memorialize the Iraqis killed in the conflict. It started in January 2004 in Chicago’s Federal Plaza. Then there were 504 pairs of boots on display. This trip through Chicago, there were 3,452 pairs of boots.
I really try to keep my politics out of Blue Kitchen. To me, this exhibit transcends politics. Whatever your political beliefs, as you walk among the grid of far too many boots, stopping to read the names of the young men and women they represent, looking at mementos left by friends and parents and spouses, you can’t help but be confronted by the real and awful cost of war. Any war.