WASHINGTON • That raw, emotional moment when Carryn Owens was lauded by President Donald Trump during his message to Congress this week made many Americans choke with sympathy.
It also made some uncomfortable. Thirty days before, the young mother of three had lost her Navy SEAL husband on a raid in Yemen, and the isolation that the widow portrayed surrounded by applauding politicians and their guests left complex questions.
Was this a commemorative moment, or an exploitative one?
What is it about American culture and politics and the need to mythologize the sacrifices of fallen warriors that pushes grief so vividly into the public square?
A new book by Colorado State University political scientist David McIvor attempts some answers.
In “Mourning in America: Race and the Politics of Loss,” McIvor writes that there has been a rise in public mourning but that mourning has always been a part of politics. He illustrates the rise through recent movements, such as Black Lives Matter that came out of the deaths of young, black men, including the shooting death of Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson 30 months ago.
Ryan Owens was killed Jan. 29 during a U.S. military raid on a camp of an al-Qaida affiliate in Yemen. Questions have been raised about whether President Donald Trump should have ordered the raid and its degree of success.
Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, equated those questions with dishonoring Owens’ sacrifice.
Owens’ father, Bill, refused to meet with Trump when his son’s body was brought back to Dover Air Force Base, and he has questioned whether Trump irresponsibly ordered the mission as a “grand display” of power just days into his presidency.
Ronald Reagan made guests at presidential addresses part of the optics politics…