I received a Google alert with a text reading: “I don’t like people who go to the Holocaust Memorial Museum wearing t-shirts that say ‘Eat Me.’” I thought maybe I was being referenced. When I clicked on the alert I found a review of a new book by Dick Meyer Titled Why We Hate Us, along with the first chapter of his book titled “Land of the Fake.” Meyer has been a professional journalist for 20 years and is now the editorial director of digital media for NPR.
Meyer writes of the May morning in 1998 when he attended a memorial service before the marble Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. A military band played the old hymn "Going Home" as an honor guard lifted the casket containing the remains of the “unknown” Vietnam soldier and carried it to the waiting hearse.
“It had rested there since Memorial Day 1984 when President Ronald Reagan led a ceremony to finally honor the soldiers of the Vietnam War by putting one of their own into the Tomb of the Unknowns. Who was he? What was his story? Where was his family? ‘We will never know the answers to those questions about his life,’ Reagan said that day.”
Meyer writes: “I remember the moment during the ceremony when I realized the Tomb of the Unknowns was literally a fake on a monumental scale. A deliberate fake. A false monument.” That is, everyone, from Reagan on down, knew the name of the Vietnam veteran who was being honored as the “unknown soldier.” Meyer had been working the story for months with CBS colleagues. CBS Evening News had produced a series of stories about the veteran.
After the disinterment ceremony at the false monument of the Tomb of the Unknowns, Meyers writes that he became more of a “phoniness” vigilante than he had been before. He became a professional “bullshit hunter.” He quotes columnist Lars-Erik Nelson as once saying: "The enemy isn't liberalism. The enemy isn't conservatism. The enemy is bullshit." Meyer notes that now he had a motto.
So the enemy is “bullshit.” I agree with Dick Meyer and with Lars-Erik Nelson, a fellow I admired. Because the Tomb of the Unknowns is a “false monument” and a “deliberate fake” on a “monumental scale,” it only follows that, in the vulgate, that the Tomb is bullshit. Which brings us to the quote that caught my attention in the first place and took me to this story.
“I don’t like people who go to the Holocaust Memorial Museum wearing t-shirts that say ‘Eat Me.’”
Meyer implies that such an event took place. While the anecdote is refreshingly comic as it stands, we are left with a question. Was the t-shirt wearer an empty-headed social idiot oblivious to the immense pain he might cause displaying his t-shirt in a Museum dedicated to the “unique monstrosity” of the Germans, or was he making a statement? “This United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is bullshit?” Would that we could find the boy and ask him. Maybe he’ll read this Blog and step forward.
In any event, finding a professional bullshit vigilante like Dick Meyer interests me greatly. It’s very good news. I will soon have a simple question for Dick Meyer and his colleagues at NPR. We’ll see how far real bullshit vigilantes are willing to go.