Monday, April 14, 2003

Throughout the war in Iraq, George Bush has seemingly upheld his reputation for being impervious to doubt. Never did we see him or hear him reported to be troubled by reports of American casulaties, dead Iraqi civilians, or mass destruction. Only once did I see any report that he was disturbed by anything. And what, amidst all this death, moved the president? The capture of Private Jessica Lynch.

So I wasn't surprised when Lynch became the first POW to be (dramatically) rescued. But it doesn't seem like Bush was the only person Lynch's capture got to. Lynch immediately became the cover girl of every American newspaper and magazine; she's become the American face of this war. It makes you wonder what odd chivalric battle is going on in the male American mind as it watches attractive young women being sent into battle.

Of course, I also realized that Lynch was not even the only woman to have been taken captive in the opening days of the war. But we heard almost nothing about the other woman POW, Army Specialist Shoshana Johnson--an African American woman. So when Johnson and a group of other POWs were freed yesterday, I was interested to see how her story was covered in comparison to Lynch's.

Well, I get the San Jose Mercury News at home, and Johnson was indeed on the cover, and her story led the front-page article. But while the initial news photos of Lynch were blown up so that her face filled the frame, Johnson was shown only in the middle ground, being led by two soldiers out in front of her. Inside the paper there were pictures of all the rescued POWs, and here we saw the power of a comma. The first picture was of Chief Warrant Officer Ronald D. Young, Jr. He was listed as: "Single, father of one." Johnson was listed last, as: "Single mother of one." Young's roles as "single" and "father" are allowed to be separate, but Johnson gets tagged with the package "single mother"--which under a picture of a black woman is hardly an innocent slip.

I think, though, that the most chilling thing was a quote from Johnson herself late in the story:

"`They broke down the door and shouted "Down, Down, Down,"' Johnson said. Added Miller: 'They shouted, "If you're an American stand up."'

"'At first they didn't realize I was an American,' Johnson said."

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