Monday, November 12, 2007

Re-thinking monuments to our heroes

I'll admit that I haven't given the monuments our current generation creates much thought. All I know is that when a monument is proposed, I am typically underwhelmed at best and angry at worst. This article at the American Thinker has really helped me gain some perspective on the topic, though.

What these modern war memorials have in common with each other is nothing. They portray nothingness. They have no people in them, never mind men carrying guns or swords, statues of Winged Victory, or even doves of peace. Just death and names -- grief without glory.

Oddly enough, for structures that are purposely barren, the promotional literature about all of them says their purpose involves "healing." By "healing," I infer they must mean "sitting in the corner, licking your wounds and whining pitifully." It may not be surprising that both 9-11 memorials have failed to attract more than a fraction of the private contributions they need in order to be built.

The column made me think back on many of the memorials that have been built or proposed in my lifetime. Few are more powerful to me than the statue of the three iron workers outside of Miller Park in Milwaukee. That statue makes me think of those men and the terrible tragedy that cost them their lives while they did their jobs to provide for their families. To me, that memorial carries power. Then I think on many of the war memorials like the Wall in Washington or proposed 9-11 memorials. Those memorials are built on emotion. They are built on symbolism to carry tremendous amount grief, love and remembering for those who have lost their heroes. What they do not do is transmit much feeling to those untouched by war, by those who do not have a lost hero. Monuments are a tribute to the dead and a connection for their living loved ones, but they are also supposed to transmit a deep message to those untouched, and to those in future generations who will not have their own memories of the event. In that, our modern memorials all to often fail, and those we remember deserve better.

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