Gammon Commission Update

So I was working out some more ideas for the Gammons and I’ve come up with a couple other topics / ideas that I’d like to explore, either in this piece or in future pieces.

First, I think I’ve settled on a “satin stitch” for the assemblage. I may mix this up a little once I actually get started, but for now, this is where I stand. I took the old Penncrest (sewing machine) into the service center today to be tuned up and adjusted so I (hopefully) don’t have any more tension slips, as demonstrated in several parts of the stitching below…

Tension slips make me very, very angry, even though they shouldn’t. And it’s not about the looks of it, because that I could handle, it’s because tension slips cause loose or weak spots in the bond of materials (the whole point of sewing) AND they often break the thread and I have to re-thread the machine, and that gets really, really old.

But of course there’s more to this story.

On the front page of the Providence Journal today there was a picture of General Petraeus discussing his position on the Iraq War. In a similar photograph (but not exactly this photograph) Justin pointed out all of his ribbon badges.

Immediately, I thought of the Gammon piece, Mr. Gammon’s Buddhist position in Vietnam as a Conscientious Objector and the structure of accolades tied to Identity as a whole.

Admittedly, I don’t know very much about the military. I asked Justin if these medals were anything like the Boy Scouts’ honor badges. Did an officer get one if he, say, won a particular battle? Or if he graduated a certain number of soldiers? Was it like a multi-level-marketing thing? If they rub two sticks together…. (oh, wait.. someone might get thrown out for that…)

Joking aside, I found a medal dictionary online, which was cool, but didn’t see any medals for Conscientious Objector. That’s okay, I wasn’t expecting to. And, to keep the record clear, I’m not necessarily making a criticism against the military for not having it; I just think about all those people who also donated their time, maybe not for the killing, but serving their country administratively, which is also very important.

So this, of course, got me to thinking about the taxonomy of symbols and images and their associations with power, authority and effect on social climate. For instance, the “swastika” is an ancient symbol, in fact one of (if not the) oldest symbols of human existence.

“The word “swastika” comes from the Sanskrit svastika – “su” meaning “good,” “asti” meaning “to be,” and “ka” as a suffix. Until the Nazis used this symbol, the swastika was used by many cultures throughout the past 3,000 years to represent life, the sun, power, strength, and good luck.” (source)

Three thousand years of symbolic service destroyed in a matter of decades. This is interesting.

And all of this thinking isn’t far from where my headspace has been lately. I’ve been reading a book called “Art & Physics” by Leonard Shlain which discusses at great length our human dependence upon symbols and their uses to empower some and subjugate others. There’s no way around it. Within a defined culture, we agree on certain symbols to act as representatives for ideas. In military culture, ribbon badges are nothing short of a codex of combative achievement.

I’m not sure what connections this will bring to the Gammon piece or future pieces, but I do think it’s all interesting.


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