Anyone who has ever debated politics on the internet has probably seen a photograph of a wounded soldier shooting a pistol while being hauled across a muddy battlefield on another soldier’s back. It looks like it was taken on the front lines of World War II. Usually, it’s accompanied by a caption mocking liberals, such as this one authored by conservative firebrand Kambree Kawahine Kao this Memorial Day: “THIS is what bravery looks like. Not someone refusing to stand for the National Anthem.”
Naturally, the mind wonders about the soldiers in the photo. Who are they? Did they survive the war? Are they still alive? What stories do they tell? The truth is, none of those questions apply here, because the soldiers are only 12-inches tall and made of plastic. In fact, that picture was taken in 2004 in Kingston, New York, where the soldiers are assembled to liberate a fictional World War II-era Belgian town called Marwencol from an Army of pocket-sized Nazis. They are no more deserving of our respect and gratitude than a Barbie doll or a pencil.
Still, I’d argue that Kao’s description of the photograph is accurate. It does indeed depict an act of extraordinary courage — just not one that occurred in combat.
18 years ago, the artist Mark Hogancamp began constructing Marwencol in his backyard after he was nearly beaten to death by group of bigots who attacked him for being a crossdresser. At 38, he had to relearn how to walk, talk, think, and use his hands again, but he was unable to afford therapy. So he built Marwencol. There’s a whole documentary about it. Check out the trailer: