Amy B. Smoyer, PhD

Incarcerated Lives, Health & Social Work

War Journalism

Francisco Goya, The Shootings of May 3, 1808 (1814)
Sometime in my elementary or middle school education, a teacher made me memorize "Casey At Bat."  Thirty-some years later, the last stanza of the poem still stays with me. 
Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining  bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and little children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville - mighty Casey has struck out.
-- Ernest Lawrence Thayer, 1888

It's a basic concept, but one that I find comforting - the idea that someone somewhere is laughing even if I am feeling gloomy or sad.

This weekend in Madrid, I got to be the happy person. Jogging through Parque Retiro on Wednesday morning, it seemed truly impossible that anyone anywhere was suffering.  The running paths in the park are mercifully flat. The sun was shining, not too bright, just warm.  Older women walked arm and arm around the Fallen Angel statue. Little children chased pigeons in front of the Lake. I was living in a postcard.

But unfortunately, suffering at that moment was not impossible.  Within hours of my idyllic run, dozens of people were blown to pieces in Homs, including war journalist Marie Colvin. Would the mourning parents of Syria find solace in the fact that somewhere "men are laughing"? Probably not. Maybe someday. Who knows.

Nicholas Mazza, the Dean of Florida State's Social Work program, where Jaime and I earned our MSWs, is a leader in the field of poetry therapy. His work describes the power of art to teach, heal and share - both for the person who creates the art and the people who experience it. He would say, yes, maybe not "Casey at Bat," but there are words somewhere that can reach these families and help them survive.  May those words come quickly and be heard. 

So while we're in Madrid, and talking about war, let's move from the Parque Retiro to the Prado and the Museo Reina Sofia.  These corridors of classic and modern Spanish art offer, among other things, some of the most powerful examples of war journalism the world has ever seen.  Once you have laid eyes on it, can you ever forget Guernica?  The mother's agony, the struggling beasts, a light shining in the darkness.  The work transcends time and place allowing you to witness Guernica and Homs simultaneously.  And the juxtaposition between Napoleon's finely dressed faceless soldiers and the men of Madrid, confronting death unarmed, that Goya created in the late 1800s. Isn't this the same image that Colvin described just days before her death?

Goya, Picasso, Colvin. Looks like the war journalists have their work cut out for them. Funny thing about war. Every generation has described and documented its horrors, yet it keeps on coming. Brace yourself for the next pitch, it might be you in Mudville next time.
Francisco Goya, Saturn Devouring His Son (1820ish)
Saturn ate his own sons in order to preserve his power.  Imagine that.