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Another Chauvinistic American Project

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on March 31, 2009

The Crane Project; What is It?

This project uses the symbol of peace and of long life to tell the story of loss in Iraq. The soldiers who lost their life in Iraq, the citizens of Iraq who died as a result of the conflict, the journalist covering the war who were killed doing their jobs. Different parties, with different interests. But all human beings, with lives ended too soon for those who love them and knew them.

Polymer clay cranes are being folded, with information about each individual, for the soldiers. They will be hung in strands to represent each week in the war, in order to present the passage of time, as well as a visual representation of their numbers.

Waxed paper cranes are being folded by volunteers across the country. These cranes will represent the Iraqis who have lost their lives. A count by the Iraq Body Count project is shown below. This is considered to be a conservative estimate.

Cranes will also be folded from newspaper stories about the war to represent journalists who lost their lives in Iraq. Without journalists telling the story, we would know even less about the cost of war.

Wonderful! Fold a crane to represent a dead victim of the war in Iraq… Excellent idea! My wife found the site, and at first she thought it was great…

But the entire idea fell flat, because the American chauvinism and arrogance poisoned the idea – polymer clay is almost indestructible, while news paper and waxed paper are perishable materials, so the cranes made for American soldiers are to last forever, but the cranes folded for Iraqis and journalists are to perish with time – moral: Only Americans are to be remembered…

And Americans wonder why the rest of the world think they are Arrogant, Loudmouthed, Bigoted and Chauvinist Idiots? Well we do, thanks to ideas like this…

4 Responses to “Another Chauvinistic American Project”

  1. Judy Dunn said

    Interesting interpretation. I have no intention of being arrogant, or chauvanistic with this project. The truth is most Americans are not the least bit aware of the range of death and destruction that is happening with this war. The fact that information about the American soldiers is so much more readily available, in such detail is only a reflection of that fact. I am hoping to highlight this ignorance, and help people see the cost. In addition…I am known for my polymer clay cranes. I have folded thousands of them….something I don’t think anyone else has yet done. It is from the stories I have heard of people’s connections with the cranes that made me want to do this project. I was against this war from it’s very conception. Not a single letter, phone call or protest march made by me, or any other American made any difference. I hope that this project can shed a light on this war, and why it was such a terrible mistake. I am sorry that you have grasped on to the material and made that central to the project. But if that is the prism through which you wish to view this project…so be it. I hope that you might be able to look at it with the intent that is is being done…to address the very issue you are outraged about.


  2. Oh, Judy, I understand that the project is done in all well-meaning and with good intent, and I am not objecting to the idea of highlighting the death toll of the war to express one’s disgust for it, and if that is all you get from what I have written then you aren’t thinking. If all cranes representing American soldiers are made out of a material that is almost eternal, and the cranes that represent Iraqis are made of a perishable material, then you ARE sending the message that the memory of American soldiers are more important than that of Iraqis or Journalists, regardless of what other messages you might be intending.

    Your intention is good, the basic idea is good – but then you either make ALL the cranes out of polymer clay or you make them all out of waxed paper/newspaper articles – or people are going to think that you are just another Arrogant, Loudmouthed, Bigoted and Chauvinist American worshiping American soldiers and thinking they are more important than any other life. At least if those people are not American

    Fair? No. But just like you are doing this to highlight the awfulness of the war in Iraq (though through an unfair, unequal method) – I am writing in this blog to highlight the inflated sense of importance Americans have of themselves and their place in the world when this delusional idea rears it ugly head. And even that was not your intention – the inequality in material lends itself to this idea.

    No, your project is not addressing what I am outraged about – it addresses the war, yes, however my blog entry is not about the horribleness of the war, but about the very CORE behind why the war was entered into to begin with – and it’s sad that an artist like yourself cannot see this.


  3. Judy Dunn said

    Tell you what….make the cranes out of polymer clay to represent the Iraqis, and I will be happy to include them in the project.

    You are projecting your disdain for Americans, and the actions of one inept president onto this project. You are free to do so. However it does not make it the only interpretation, or necessarily the most valid.

    If I was so ethnocentric as you paint me, I would not even begin to consider the inclusion of cranes to represent any other life other than those of the American soldiers, from any material.

    I happen to think that the waxed paper cranes are the most beautiful of the the ones being made for the project. Waxed paper and vellum are very durable papers, which is part of the reason they were selected. The cranes made from articles about the war are probably the most vulnerable…much like printed news coverage itself, I suppose. And as to the indestructible nature of polymer clay…I can show you many, many cranes that have broken or been damaged.

    I do welcome you to fold cranes for the project. You may find it is a very satisfying and centering activity. Let me know if you would like me to send you some paper squares, and instructions…or if you would like to fold polymer clay cranes, you can find my instructional videos on YouTube.


  4. You are projecting your disdain for Americans, and the actions of one inept president onto this project.

    Not really, only applying some healthy knowledge of history. You thinking that I am “projecting” shows an ignorance of American and World history that is quite American actually. The US has had a bunch of inept presidents, callous, imperialistic and greedy presidents. Presidents who have used Americas size and weapons to bully smaller and less empowered countries, from Asia to South America. GW Bush is only the last in a row of them. Unfortunately, memes are what make up one’s attitudes and ones basic values, and you get those from the society you live in. So, basically if one is born American or have lived in the US more than 5 years, one is screwed attitude wise, even if one’s political leanings are not conservative.

    I have met a rainbow of Americans over the years, both in real life and on line and it doesn’t matter where they come from or who they vote for – they all have this unrealistic, arrogant idea that being American somehow make them superior to others, that being American gives them rights that others don’t have. That American soldiers suffer more than Iraqi soldiers or Vietnamese soldiers, that being born American make them justified and righteous by definition.

    I developed my views of Americans and of American attitudes towards the rest of the world already as a young teenager, when the Vietnam War was still going on and when I did research for a paper on Chile in school, and learned how American values and American attitudes resulted in the Chilean copper mines and other valuable raw materials being depleted with very little profit for the Chilean people, possibly even resulted in the murder of a democratically elected president, who just happened to be a little too far to the left for the American Value System to agree with.

    The worship of American soldiers that has been the staple of American thinking and American expressions throughout history and only recently spiked to new heights as a result of 9/11 and the “War on Terror” is quite obvious in the choice of material you have made for your cranes – not saying that you did so consciously, but the fact that you did not have any cranes for other casualties than American soldiers at the start of your project speaks volumes – you could have decided to make cranes of polymer for ALL, you didn’t, you chose to make them for American Soldiers. You might not be aware of it, and that’s ok, to a point. I’ll grant you that.

    I’ll join your project when you change the materials to the same for all cranes, to reflect that your intention was not, as you say, ethnocentric.


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