STOP! In the Name of War…

It’s a sign.

This is clever art. Think of it. Think of the idea formulating in the back of the artist’s mind. Think of the him planning a perfectly-cast shadow. Think of him etching in the letters “W-A-R” in the same font and height as the word “STOP.” There’s just something intriguing about the process of creating this. And a note of jealousy too—like wishing you’d been the one to think of it.

STOP! IN THE NAME OF WAR - Using a shadow concept, this anonymous artist created a clever piece of political art with a strong message.

Some degree of respect deserves to be awarded to this graffiti artist. Rather than haphazardly scribbling “war” on the stop sign, an act which most assuredly would be considered common vandalism, he created a piece of art.

In effect, more than a sign.

War vs. Peace

This image is about war and peace.

Stenciled on some wall on some street corner in some city, the art appears at first glance to be an anti-peace work (big red target!). But on closer inspection, it proves itself to be an image of peace advocacy.

An image full of symbolism, this stenciled street art is advocating peace, although it deceivingly gives the impression of advocating war.

You’d have to be blind to miss the heavy peace symbolism. There’s a dove and an olive branch, universal symbols of peace since practically the dawn of time. (But for real. I looked it up and use of the olive branch as a symbol of peace dates at least to the 5th century B.C., in the time of the ancient Greeks. Furthermore, the dove apparently appears in many early Roman catacombs in funerary inscriptions, sometimes accompanied by the words in pace, which is Latin for “in peace.” So there’s that evidence.)

But even while the peace symbolism is strong, it’s not what the eye notices first. The target, centered directly over the heart of the dove—and therefore the heart of peace—takes the first-impression prize hands-down. And if I did a word association exercise with the word “target,” here’s what comes to mind: bullets, shooting, guns, war, battle. (I was having a really hard time blocking “store” from that list). In any case, the target obviously represents war, and on first glance, it appears to be taking pretty good aim at peace.

But notice what’s under the target: a bulletproof vest. Protecting both the bird—and peace—from war, the vest is why this image can be labeled pro-peace. With such foolproof safety gear, peace is shielded from harm.

While war is taking pretty good aim, it’s just a bit off-target.

‘Can Daddy Come Home Now?’

I found this photo while browsing Panoramio, a photo-sharing website bearing some similarity to Flickr.

I know virtually nothing about the context of the photo, other than that it was taken by the screen name ‘Librarian 1975’ and that the art appeared on the wall of an old Exxon Station in Hainesport, New Jersey.

Spray painted on the wall of an old Exxon Station in Hainesport, New Jersey, this street art conveys an important political message about the disruptive effects of war on family life.

The words almost certainly referred to a father returning home from War, most likely the War in Iraq.

There’s nothing really to be said for the actual artwork. I’m no art critic, but the words were clearly spray painted, and in all honesty I think the kid could look a bit more stricken and/or torn.

There is something to be said, however, for the art’s message and the important reminder it conveys.

After seeing this image, it suddenly hit me that the War in Iraq went on for nearly NINE years. That’s longer than the Civil War and nearly as long as both World Wars combined. At the official ending of the war in mid-December 2011, CBS News reported that 4,500 Americans had died and 32,000 more were wounded over the course of the war. Additionally, more than 100,000 Iraqis were killed and approximately $800 billion was expended. Funny how all those “Two U.S. soldiers were killed today in a bombing near Baghdad” and “Twelve Iraqis died today in a shooting…” reports added up.

Even more peculiar: when the War began in 2003, everybody knew about it. All of America followed the news reports, and a majority of U.S. citizens supported Bush’s decision at the time. But as time progressed, the war became a kind of subliminal advertising—sure, we heard about it, and it was reported on, but on the whole, I think a lot of people grew numb to it…even to the point of forgetting it was happening. The War, to the average citizen, became quite commonplace.

This message reminds us that while the War was almost tiresome, even mundane, to a lot of people, it intoxicated and consumed the minds of others. And that really, it’s a shame when we forget that.


‘I Am Not A Terrorist’

It’s an image of protest and accusation amidst one of the most complicated and long-standing political conflicts in the world.

A woman, clearly indicated as being a Palestinian Arab, stares with a jumbled expression of fear, accusation, contempt, and conviction. The image, along with the caption “I am not a terrorist,” hits upon a trend that has grown since the 9/11 terrorist attacks: the propensity to be suspicious or wary of all peoples of Arab descent and, to go one step further, to classify the entire race as a breed of terrorists.

This graffiti image is found on the cement wall outside the Bethlehem checkpoint, where thousands of Palestinian Arabs must cross daily on their way to work in East Jerusalem and other Israeli cities.

The image has found itself etched on the cement wall lining the Bethlehem checkpoint, one of the most crucial checkpoints in the West Bank. Thousands of Palestinian Arabs who live in Bethlehem but work in nearby East Jerusalem and other Israeli cities have to pass through the Bethlehem checkpoint (also called the Gilo checkpoint) each day.

But it’s no airport security line. Studded with turnstiles and enclosed by metal bars, the checkpoint more closely resembles a cattle chute than a diplomatic security station. And while there may not be cattle prods, more than 2,000 Palestinian Arabs must usher through the narrow entryway daily to reach their place of work. The checkpoint opens at 5 a.m., although many Palestinians arrive by 3 a.m. to ensure a prime spot in line. While the majority of people passing through are the same day-to-day, the line creeps along slowly and wait times of two to five hours are not uncommon.

Palestinian Arabs wait in line at the Bethlehem checkpoint. Upon reaching the front, they must present document identification and undergo security measures.

With security measures at a maximum, many Palestinians stand in line only to be rejected at the pearly gates. Those seeking entrance into Jerusalem must present a work permit as well as undergo mandatory fingerprinting, document inspection, bag x-ray and a metal detector test. After gaining admission, many still have a long walk to work, as cars obviously do not fit among the checkpoint confines.

An appalling example of a process lined with red tape, the measures enforced at the Bethlehem checkpoint have resulted from the fights concerning the status of Jerusalem, which remains one of the core issues in the Palestinian-Israeli conflicts.



‘Make Love, Not War’

‘Make Love, Not War’ –it’s a popular phrase, and easily recognizable. I’d say most people with any sense of history or pop culture could trace its beginnings to the Vietnam War, the 60’s, a protest movement, or at least reference hippies. Oddly, though, nobody could say with one hundred percent certainty who first coined the phrase, because nobody knows.

The famous anti-war quip, ‘Make Love, Not War’ seems to have arisen on the slogan scene in the 1960’s as suddenly and without notice as the “Keep Calm and Carry On” phrase today.

The slogan 'Make Love, Not War' originated in 1965 during the midst of Vietnam War protest rallies and remains a popular and well-known anti-war phrase today. First printed on buttons, it has been reproduced on all forms of memorabilia.

Primarily used by those in protest of the Vietnam War, there are two alleged stories that detail the phrase’s beginnings, although all can agree that it first appeared in 1965.

A substantial claim to the phrase has been made by Diane Newell Meyer, who was in 1965 a student at the University of Oregon. Meyer claims to have written “Let’s make love, not war” on an envelope and pinned it to her sweater before attending a protest rally in 1965. In an August 2010 article in Oregon’s Mail Tribune newspaper, Meyer spoke of coining the term:

“It just popped into my head – I remember I started giggling when I wrote it,” Meyer said. “I know I hadn’t read it anywhere before. There is no way to prove it but I think I’m the person  who invented the phrase.”

Photographed at the rally wearing the phrase, the picture was distributed by the Associated Press and even made it into the New York Times, and presumably, the phrase gained momentum from a widespread readership.

The other claim of ownership is made by Franklin and Penelope Rosemont, an activist couple who founded the Chicago Surrealist Group and who were largely involved in Vietnam War protests. In 1965, the Rosemont’s owned a shop called the Solidarity Bookshop in Chicago, Illinois. In the United Kingdom’s Creative Review, a monthly publication covering communication arts worldwide, Penelope Rosemont tells her side of the story:

“In March 1965,” Rosemont says, “we wanted to do a button. The slogan we thought of first was the old…’Make Peace, Not War’ but it seemed too tame for the 60’s. Several of us together at Solidarity Bookshop – myself, Franklin, Bernard Marszalek and Tor Faegre – thought about this and what we came up with finally was ‘Make Love, Not War.’”

The famous 'Make Love, Not War' slogan first appeared in print on buttons like this one, allegedly an original made at the Solidarity Bookshop in Chicago, Illinois.

Whether or not the Rosemont’s actually coined the phrase, they are credited with being the first people to print the slogan on memorabilia. Thousands of ‘Make Love, Not War’ buttons printed at the Solidarity Bookshop were distributed at the Mother’s Day Peace March in 1965 and were instrumental in popularizing the phrase.

The 'Make Love, Not War' phrase continues to be reproduced in new ways and incorporated into modern graphics.

A few other popular Vietnam anti-war chants and phrases:

  • “Draft beer, not boys.”
  • “Hell no, we won’t go.”
  • “Eighteen today, dead tomorrow.”
  • “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?”

Listen to John Lennon’s song, “Make Love, Not War,” inspired by the anti-war slogan.

Sucks To Be Him

Clearly, this is not a prime example of a father. On the contrary, he appears to be the family disappointment.

I’ve seen this image before in history books, and I’d always assumed it was an American piece of propaganda. It is in fact British.

This 1915 British propaganda poster by Savile Lumley was based on a real-life father who worried what his children would later think of him if he didn’t contribute to the war effort by enlisting.

Designed in 1915 by the print artist Savile Lumley and mass produced by the British Parliamentary Recruitment Committee, it was intended to encourage men to enlist. Before conscription became law in 1916, the British government relied primarily on propaganda like this to up recruitment numbers.

One can imagine the scene. Presumably the girl has just learned about the Great War in school. Intrigued by the stories her teacher tells and the pictures she sees in her schoolbook, she innocently inquires, “Daddy, what did YOU do in the Great War?” in the way that children do, having no prior reason to believe that her father ISN’T in fact the great hero of World War I.

I think the poster captures the awkward moment between her question and his answer—the moment he realizes he has nothing to say.

It certainly inspires a sense of patriotic guilt and tugs at the emotions. No dad wants to be THAT dad.

Interestingly enough, though, the poster turns out to be based on a real-life THAT dad. The idea for the poster was actually that of a printer, Arthur Gunn, who reportedly imagined himself as the father in question. His son, Paul, later revealed the poster’s beginnings:

“One night my father came home very worried about the war situation and discussed with my mother whether he should volunteer. He happened to come in to where I was asleep and quite casually said to my mother, If I don’t join the forces whatever will I say to Paul if he turns round to me and says, What did you do in the Great War, Daddy? He suddenly turned round to my mother and said that would make a marvelous slogan for a recruiting poster. He shot off to see one of his pet artists, Savile Lumley, had a sketch drawn straight away, based on the theme projected about five years hence, although by the time it had taken shape the questioner had become one of my sisters.”  –Paul Gunn

Gunn soon after joined the Westminster Volunteers to ensure he wouldn’t remain THAT dad.

A Personal Picket Sign

I liked this poster immediately. It’s innocent, almost childlike, which contradicts strongly with its poignant message. The words seem etched in crayon, and the handwriting—a bit off kilter—as well as the scribbled coloring, are in line with its simple theme.

A sunflower coupled with a simple and direct message is the basis for Lorriane Schneider's 1967 poster protesting the Vietnam War.

But I like it even more now that I know the story behind it.

This poster was created by a mother. Like any mother having brought life into the world, she was dedicated to preserving it.

Concerned that her eldest son would be drafted into the army and shipped off to Vietnam, Lorriane Schneider designed the print in 1967 to protest the war, the draft, and the growing number of American deaths. She chose a flower, a ubiquitous symbol of hope at the time, and drew four leaves on the stem, one for each of her four children.

Out of the poster a movement grew.  Begun by only 15 ladies, the organization Another Mother for Peace was founded later in 1967 with a mission of “educating women to take an active role in eliminating war as a means of solving disputes between nations, people and ideologies.” It continues today as a non-profit, and the group uses the print as its official logo.

Despite the poster’s quiet appearance and soft style, it drove a loud and stirring movement. Even without the in-your-face, bold approach common to a lot of protest art, the poster and its message gave way to a striking anti-war statement.

This poster is notable not because of what it looks like, but because of what it achieved.

Schneider called it her “personal picket sign.” But she didn’t carry it alone.