One hundred and thirteen pairs of boots filled part of the Sunken Garden Wednesday and Thursday as anti-war group CODEPink hosted Eyes Wide Open, a memorial to Virginia’s fallen Iraq war soldiers.
The exhibit was supposed to take place one day earlier. Organizers delayed it one day because they feared damaging the boots in Tuesday’s rainy weather.
“The boots are insured for around $1 million,” Margaret Smith ’10 said. “It’s not a chance CODEPink wanted to risk.”
Co-sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee, the memorial is part of a national exhibition of all American deaths in Iraq. It has been touring the country since January 2004, when AFSC displayed boots in Chicago’s Federal Plaza.
CODEPink activists and exhibition co-sponsors Shirin Wertime ’10 and Julie Somor ’10 said that the exhibition was designed to make people stop and think, but was not designed as a protest of the war.
Although the exhibition is billed as a non-political memorial, the sponsors did say that people have accused them of making a political statement with Eyes Wide Open. A promotional e-mail for the exhibition described CODEPink as “a national, women-initiated, grassroots, peace and social justice movement working to end the war in Iraq.”
“Some might interpret it as having a slant, but we’re trying to highlight the financial, political and human cost of the war,” Wertime said. “We’re calling it a memorial.”
According to Somor, the memorial has attracted attention from College students and staff, with several people looking for the boots representing fallen friends and relatives. Many of the boots contain personal mementos, such as photographs, flags and favorite candies.
“I think we have a very non-political approach,” Somor said. “It’s a very respectful exhibit.”
AFSC promotional materials from the exhibition highlight the financial and social costs of the war. An AFSC pamphlet urged people to lobby Congress to defund the war and redirect the money to social programs in the United States and Iraq.
Wertime denied that the exhibition was a political statement.
“That’s not the focus here,” she said. “Whether you support the war or not, we can all come together over remembrance.”