Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Monday, June 22, 2009

Neda Agha Soltan

The reasons the flow of words and images threatens repressive institutions and assist forms of liberation are obvious, I guess, but today I've been thinking also about how images become "iconic" almost too quickly, especially with the advent of global electronic communication.

For my generation of Americans, iconic images proliferated: fire-hoses and dogs released on African Americans protesting in the South; still-photos created from the Zapruder film (and "the Zapruder film" becoming an iconic phrase); Oswald photographed crying out in pain and surprise at the moment Jack Ruby guns him down; the naked child napalmed in Viet Nam; the North Viet Namese prisoner executed by a South Viet Namese officer; Bobby Kennedy dying, lying on the floor of a kitchen; Martin Luther King lying on the balcony of a motel; the student at Kent State kneeling beside her dead friend, her arms raised in a plea; and on and on.

Now the image of a woman named Neda Agha Soltan, shot and killed in Iran, has become iconic--too quickly, perhaps. One has the urge to pause and to think of her as who she was: one person, one woman, with friends and family, one consciousness, an endlessly rich web of memories, ideas, images, emotions. A life, one life--not an "icon." Neda Agha Soltan.
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