I think that the monuments in Washington D.C. are so embedded in our consciousness that we forget how meaningul and beautiful they are. I have to admit, my art-seeking goal in D.C. was more along the lines of the art museums and less about the monuments, but after revisiting those "must-see" sites with my kids, I realized that they are so much more impressive than most of us probably ever realize.
I think that the most touching monument is the Vietnam Memorial. I'm a big fan of Maya Lin's newer work, anyway, so I was able to view "the Wall" in the context of her other works. It's such an impressive piece, and I really don't think there is any way to experience it but to actually be there. You can't capture the experience in a photograph, or even in a miniature traveling exhibit, like the one that has been to WV in the not-too-distant past.
I'll admit, I cried like a little girl just looking at it -- especially in light of the current endless war with its enormous human cost. It hits too close to home. I never knew my Grandfather, who died in the Korean War when my Dad was only 3 years old. He was a kid, too -- only 25 years old, himself. My Dad has also served in just about every military activation since the Vietnam War, including Desert Storm and the current war. My cousins have also served, and I'm getting ready to see my Brother-in-Law off to Afghanistan this weekend.
It's funny how words are used for the soldiers who fall to somehow soften the blow. Casualty. Casualty? What the hell does that mean? These lives were just lost casually? Like "oops, we lost a few...?" That's bullshit. Each soldier is someone's Dad ... or brother. Or Mother. Or sister... each "casualty" is someone's life story cut short. Whether you support the current war or not, each life lost is a tragedy and there's no sugarcoating it. Seeing so many tragedies carved in inch-tall letters, stacked to the top of the wall and for 500-something feet is enough to move anybody to tears. Anybody with a heart, anyway...
And isn't that what great art is all about? Not necessarily making people cry... but making someone feel something unexpected. Great art should cause a reaction, in your mind or in your heart, and give you something to carry with you afterward. Who would have thought that a granite-lined gash in the ground could accomplish that? But it does.