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War Library
Serious thought about war demands attention and reflection. Paradoxically, the media coverage about the Iraq war reduces our desire to focus on war; we get our “war quota” from newspapers and TV news about the War on Terror and the Iraqi War. As the media assaults us with the immediate story, we think less about deeper causes and implications of war, and less about how to reduce our society’s involvement in war. This understandable trade off between the daily news story and the more contextual book has made me increasingly uneasy. This installation is my response. For one of my passions is knowledge: how we calibrate it, whether we regarded it as truth, and how we organize it. And I believe that books represent the best form of information to encourage a more reflective discussion about war; they present a complex process of research, fact checking, rewriting and editing. We can therefore expect them by their nature to contain more involved meditations on the causes and objectives of war.

I intend this “War Library” to be an ideal place, if only for a few moments for most of us, to share knowledge and to converse about more fundamental questions addressed in books. Hopefully spending time and energy reflecting on war and more fully developed themes in books would help us move past our silence on these pervasive questions about dispute resolution. A more informed perspective would be useful in diminishing the distances that separate Americans from one another and from the world.

There are already many of us who do think deeply about and write on war. The Library of Congress was kind enough to send me a 6,000 page excel document with an extensive list of 26,968 English titles including the word “war” since it started keeping track of published books. Thus, the number of books collected in this War Library is less than 1% of English fiction and non-fiction works of this number. This War Library therefore only suggests the far larger universe of information available and the extensive boundaries of possible discourse on war and its related subjects.

War, of course, is a universal trauma, a moral conflict, a continuously impending threat, a vehicle to unleash the most vile emotions and instincts in all of us, and often the only way to stop genocide. We all have different perspectives on it, perspectives determined by the serendipity of time and place of birth. Our perspectives can, and often do, change depending on the historical moment in which we live. I know that my views have changed from the experience of collecting and reading some of these books.

Feel free then to take a card from those hanging in the installation. Please write your thoughts about any of the books you have read in this library or relate any personal anecdotes about war.

Also, I encourage visitors to peruse these books in this space, which is intended to resemble a child’s fort. Consider the vast parameters of war and what has been reported, recorded and omitted. Just by reading the titles, ask yourself what you know, and what piques your curiosity or inspires rage.