“Remember Me” from Poetic Revenge by Misha Bittleston
This drawing has the words “remember me” over and over again, in the speech bubbles of repeating circles, like ripples that overlap.
Throughout the series “Poetic Revenge” interlocking concentric circles represent the chain reaction of destructive “remember me” actions and their repercussions. One of the only justifications given by the government for the American conflict in Vietnam was to prevent a domino effect1 of Communism throughout the world.
Were our actions based on nothing more tangible than the fear of what might happen if we didn’t attack them first? What about repercussions from the dehumanizing actions of the conflict itself?
In a world where some acts of aggression have seemingly endless and unstoppable reactions, how did the switch flip, from war to peace?
To explain the Vietnam War, the US government made the false claim that the North Vietnamese military had attacked American ships in the Gulf of Tonkin.
In the War on Terror, the US government made the false claim that Iraqi leaders had connections to the 9/11 attack, Al-Qaeda and had Weapons of Mass Destruction that they would use against us.
President Lyndon B. Johnson regarding war in Vietnam: “the ultimate victory will depend on the hearts and minds of the people who actually live out there”.
President George W. Bush on the war in the Middle East: “Across the world, hearts and minds are opening to the message of human liberty as never before”.
Hoomi: “A war of reason and love not of blood and death will win people’s hearts and minds.”
In my concentric circles, a new rippling circle is started at one point but not at another, seeing it this way a non reaction becomes an action, like a war that is intended to result in peace, wars do end and not just because of inertia, but what makes an end to conflict possible? What kind of actions cause more reaction and what breaks the chain?
In Vietnam I couldn’t help asking myself how a nation must feel about another nation by which it has been mercilessly assaulted, and what drives or halts the impulse to retaliate.
It occurred to me that, when an artist makes something to be lasting, it is like my drawing taken literally, an attempt to be remembered, not too different from a war memorial, a plea to the world to remember, because to be remembered is to be validated.
What about destructive acts? From carving a name across a tree in the park, to flying a plane into a building, these are acts of attention seeking, demands to be remembered and validated.
Both these kinds of actions can have a ripple effect, like concentric circles, provoking other assertions to be remembered, so on and on.
Is it whatever makes the most attention getting “remember me” ripple, that gets remembered? Or that which causes the most chain reactions?
I kept asking myself why Vietnam took no revenge on the US. After the longest act of aggression and unspeakable horror in US history, in 1973 the United States stopped and it was over.
Are the people of Vietnam just so forgiving? Here I was, a welcome tourist, in a country where people who could have been my parents had come and burned their families alive.
Was it the fact that the US lost the war, and the Vietnamese people, though their country was decimated, were left vindicated and with their pride?
Is watching a world power retreat and concede to defeat, capable of quelling the drive for revenge?
After Vietnam, US political leaders admitted no wrongdoing, they had Watergate and the Pentagon Papers to do that for them, but the American people, and the influential cultural, social and civil rights leaders of the time, as well as some returning veterans, vehemently and passionately acknowledged guilt and remorse, to such an extent that in the last years of the Vietnam war GIs returned home to a shroud of shame. An unintended domino effect of the war set in motion an anti-war movement that mobilized world wide peace demonstrations, an international cultural awakening of community and love, recasting a decade of US aggression as an era of peace, love and understanding.
If the US had won, would Vietnam have turned to China for validation and joined with Russia in the war to end all wars?
If the powerful could acknowledge their faults and restrain the impulse to invalidate those who lash out at them, would that make the world a place where lasting peace could halt the domino effects of conflict?
Would acknowledging our mistakes and validating our opponents cause a loss of confidence and economic instability, or gain world respect, boost confidence in our integrity and free us from a life under constant threat of revenge?