The Unbearable Revelations of the Sins of Humankind.

Iris Chang was found dead today, after turning a gun on herself in her car, not too far from San Francisco. She was 36 years old and already an incredible investigative historian. As I recall, one of my old friends worked for her at one time, and modeled her own interests after Iris’s.

The late Stephen Ambrose had said she was “maybe the best young historian we’ve got, because she understands that to communicate history, you’ve got to tell the story in an interesting way,” understanding the need for accessible yet sober work amidst the battleground of academic and popular scholarship.

I know nothing of Iris’s personal life, her trials or her struggles. I can’t imagine why someone so young and talented and awake would kill herself. But maybe the dirt that she uncovered along the way was just too much to bear. Perhaps the ghastly revelations gleaned by salient research began to weigh too heavily.

Whatever the case, I wish for her a better place with less darkness and atrocity.

In partially related news, twenty U.S. television affiliates are pulling ‘Saving Private Ryan’ from their Veteran’s Day lineup due to its excessive violence and language, and possible financial penalties from the FCC. After all, you motherfuckers, why would we ever want to let people believe that war is horrible, and the people who died in it only children?

“The film includes a violent depiction of the D-Day invasion and profanity.” Yes, and D-Day had neither of each. So let’s pretend it was a surgical strike with no blood or death, and that it is our responsibility to remember what those dogfaces did, even if we’re not allowed to publicize it.

Just like in Iraq.

Look at me, getting all preachy.

18 Responses to “The Unbearable Revelations of the Sins of Humankind.”

  1. agntprovocateur Says:
    November 11th, 2004 at 3:24 am

    someone else posted the tragedy about iris chang. sadly, she left a 2 year old behind.

  2. effrontery Says:
    November 11th, 2004 at 10:42 am

    I saw Iris Chang read a few years ago…she left such an impression on me…what a loss.

  3. FunkyPlaid Says:
    November 14th, 2004 at 2:09 am

    It is a great loss. I wonder if the piece she was working on will be released posthumously.

  4. dr_beep Says:
    November 11th, 2004 at 3:35 am

    I personally am appalled by our increasingly sanitized depiction of war. A generation that grows up thinking of war as a purely abstract exercise at best (An exiting game at worst) will have very little reason to exercise restraint.
    We are raising a somewhat slow child to believe that a loaded gun is a fun toy that dispenses candy. When the kid turns 18 we will send him off into the street with a submachine gun.
    Depictions of violence should be, well, violent. There should be horror and there should be repercussions.
    But then I am sure I have drunkenly ranted about this to you on many occasions 🙂

  5. FunkyPlaid Says:
    November 14th, 2004 at 1:51 am

    You haven't, but I do hope that one day you will.
    I think that what you say is accurate, but I also think that it's important for people to 'play' this stuff out so they don't do it in real life. As long as they understand the difference between Halo and Honduras, Fallout and Falluja. That's where the parents come in to instruct and promote the idea that war is horrible and completely unsanitized. I would celebrate the day when my child watches Band of Brothers and 'gets' the soldier's plight and the fact that they are really human beings. I would be warmed by my child's expression of fear and replusion…which would prove that it is no longer just a game to him/her. This, as you've pointed out, is something we have no real differentiation of now. Parents are content to let television and Playstation teach a false lesson.
    You're right – there should be repercussions. And if there aren't, there will be anyway…but much worse.

  6. podle Says:
    November 11th, 2004 at 4:39 am

    I had the same reaction this morning while reading the paper. What would a non-violent depiction of the D-Day invasion look like? A blank screen? Hello?
    Wouldn't want anyone thinking too much about what combat is really like, I guess. Particularly when we are watching t.v. which is *supposed* to make us sleeeeeeepppp and be complacent little bunnies.
    I've been so bitter and suspicious lately its like being 14 all over again.

  7. FunkyPlaid Says:
    November 14th, 2004 at 1:54 am

    I am truly filled with revulsion at American unwillingness to show realistic violence on television, when our reality shows are concerned with cheating, drinking, and stealing each others' possessions. It makes be absolutely sick, because it's creating a warped set of values in our youth, and we can see it in their attitude and lack of respect for life and other people.
    Movies are the same now, with huge-budget visual productions that are plotless and an utter waste of time. Hire a star with a hot body to posture on the screen and blow things up. And that's what we aspire to now. We've lost the age of true heroes.

  8. thistlelurid Says:
    November 11th, 2004 at 4:51 am

    my grandfather fought in the BATTLE of the BULGE …..
    been thinking about him today…when he went over his hair
    was dark brown…when he returned, it was grey….my father
    remembers crying because he didnt recognize him.
    Its ignorant to think that war is any less than it is…..
    the people who really know dont watch very much
    tv anyway…..this hub-bub must be for the
    (supposed) 52.9% eejits.

  9. FunkyPlaid Says:
    November 14th, 2004 at 2:01 am

    Many of that 52.9% are veterans, though. Many are those men that actually fought in WWII, at the Bulge or at Omaha. Because Bush postures as a wartime president, those that have had any contact within the military tend to blindly support his platform, taking the stance of 'once in, always in', and thinking that anyone else wouldn't be as good to the troops. What they are failing to see is that they're contributing to this administration's blatant disregard for our troops' safety, which in turn undermines their wishes to support the soldiers.
    Your grandfather must have seen the worst of it. The Ardennes was one of the most terrible spots in the ETO. Was he infantry or tank corps or what?

  10. thistlelurid Says:
    November 16th, 2004 at 5:34 am

    I asked my father the other night…..infantry/machine gunner…..
    I really miss him……I miss sitting in a boat with
    him and watching him fish.

  11. scotis_man Says:
    November 11th, 2004 at 5:30 am

    The last I saw was that the police were not ruling an offical cause of death (other than the bullet to the brain). The said it looks like an apparent suicide, but there was not enough to be conclusive. She did piss a lot of people off with her investigative history.

  12. FunkyPlaid Says:
    November 14th, 2004 at 2:03 am

    Yes, she did piss a lot of people off. Like all of Japan.
    And now they have no choice but to actually teach what happened in their schools, because that book is available to everyone. They can't hide that shame anymore. We could learn a thing or two from it.
    I don't think she would have been killed over her reporting. She was unhinged toward the end and showed many signs of something like this happening.

  13. fanboyextream Says:
    November 11th, 2004 at 6:41 am

    Dear Mr Plad,
    I must write to thank you for your post. First the unforseen death of a promising historian is something of a shock. Though i've never read her work i find this story to be of an upsetting nature. Truely tragic. The point made that she could make the subject accessable without dilution is sad to hear. Also leaving her child leaves me quiet disturbed.
    On a slightly lighter note, maybe they should just do what south park suggested for the film saving private ryan, replace nazis with ewokes and guns with walkie talkies. He lets go futher and have the Vietnimese sign a treaty at the end of the war saying that they surrender and will never do it again.
    Yours also shocked

  14. FunkyPlaid Says:
    November 14th, 2004 at 2:06 am

    Hehe. Wookies would be good, no matter what the reason, but I'm not so sure about Ewoks. I'm glad you understand the historian's need to engage the greater mass of the public without depleting the quality of their study and research. It's something that academics often eschew and too many popular historians pass right over to satisfy their own egos.

  15. original_aj Says:
    November 11th, 2004 at 7:51 pm

    I couldn't agree with you more. I've seen a USMC film from Vietnam showing battlefield injuries. Nothing else I've ever seen shows the real horror. "We Were Soldiers" is damn close, though.
    Personally I'm much more offended by sanitised violence than realistic depictions of it.

  16. FunkyPlaid Says:
    November 14th, 2004 at 2:08 am

    I'm with you, brother. We're not stupid, but we're being bred that way. Keeping things from our children won't make them better people. Ignorance may be bliss, but knowledge is power.
    I'd rather be awake and aware, how 'bout you?

  17. original_aj Says:
    November 14th, 2004 at 2:33 am

    Yep. Think for yourself, get yourself informed and make your own decisions about what to think. Don't just swallow what the media tells you to think. Sure it's harder work, but better than snoozong through your life. This is not a rehearsal!

  18. larylich Says:
    November 15th, 2004 at 1:15 am

    Hey! It's Quentin! Just found you're live journal, and it's great to catch up with you again! 🙂

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