Sunday, November 11, 2007

Where is Our Long-Range Vision?

I started thinking about this question today as I noted that it is the 25th anniversary of the Vietnam War memorial here in DC. The wall today is a highly-visited, universally-loved memorial, the icon against which other memorials have been measured. Without revealing too much of my age, I will say that I was living here in DC when the memorial was being planned in the early 80s.

At that time, the memorial was anything but the beloved treasure it has become. Instead, the design was greeted with howls of anger and outrage when a Yale architect student, Maya Lin, won the competition that had been created for the designer. Screams of protest that the designer of this memorial to American dead in Asia was to be an Asian-American. And the design itself? Instead of a soaring tribute to Americans, it would be a SLASH in the earth, a buried tomb of an embarrassment. The attacks came fast and furious. Outrage! A vile left-wing, anti-war spitting attack on the memories of our brave dead! Amazingly enough, the government's cave in to the attacks was not to change Lin's main design, but to add a standard sculpture of a trio of soldiers to it.

Of course we all know what followed - the power of the wall to reach into our collective, emotional baggage of that war continues to this day. And the right-wing screamers who couldn't stand the idea of that Asian-American woman's slash in the earth? Well now they're on the internet organizing patriotic brigades to protect the wall from attacks from those left-wing anti-war protesters who, for some reason, they believed were going to attack the wall as part of their Iraq-war protests.

I bring this up because this pattern is one that continues to play out over and over and over again. Today we hear moans and groans from the wealthy, the right-wing, the Republican conservatives who voted heart and soul for Bush because Gore or Kerry would destroy America - they bitch and moan to us about how they regret their votes for Bush and wouldn't vote for him again. And every single time I hear that I laugh at them and point out their inability to either see the big picture, or even learn from one mistake before making it a second time in 2004. And to a person they shake it off and start in on how Gore or Kerry would have destroyed America.

And so the pattern continues.


Blogger buckarooskidoo said...

I think it's remarkable how people have embraced the Wall...I've taught the Vietnam War as a college course a number of times, and almost everyone has seen it in person, online or as part of the "traveling wall" exhibitions. Even self-described "conservatives" find it appropriate and moving.

What hasn't changed is the fondness in certain circles in the country for military action against situations they find unacceptable. They still don't understand that most conflicts aren't amenable to a military solution, that NO ONE responds well to occupation and bullying from a superpower.

Since nothing seems capable of making them see those truths, it is incumbent upon us to make sure that they don't get anywhere near the levers of executive power.

11:59 AM  
Anonymous Mark said...

Great post LP. I didn't realize how hated the memorial was when it was being created.

6:19 PM  

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