President Obama has promised to reconsider the blanket policy of banning photographs and video of military caskets as they are brought home from overseas, and he should.
Officially, the policy was instituted as a means to protect the privacy of dead soldiers and their families. But it was never really about that. The identities of those in specific caskets was never public knowledge, and even those families who may have wanted coverage of their loved one’s return were not given that choice.
From the beginning, the policy was an effort to hide the true cost of war, and those who argued for changing it were often accused of being unpatriotic.
However, it is a strange sort of patriotism that requires us not to mark the sacrifice that others make in our name, that requires us to avert our national gaze when the bodies come home from war. The tradition of honoring those who have fallen is as old as war itself, and even today warriors will risk their lives to recover the bodies of their dead, so they can be celebrated appropriately.
And if public support for a war is so fragile that we can’t be allowed to witness its cost, then we shouldn’t be fighting that war in the first place.