Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Monuments







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.

5 comments:

Buzzardbilly said...

You're right, nothing can capture the feelings one gets at the Vietnam Memorial in a way that does justice to what you felt when you where there. It's breath-taking.

May you and yours be safe in their service to our country. May we get leaders who respect and use those services more wisely.

Rebecca Burch said...

Thanks, BB. Your sentiments are appreciated, and like always, you hit the nail on the head. We need leaders who respect and use those services more wisely. Regardless of anyone's feelings about the current war and its necessity, I think that sums it up.

We need another FDR.

The Dalai Mama said...

Just reading your post almost made me cry! I have visited the Vietnam Memorial. I was twelve or so, I think. I don't think I'll ever be able to go back. The reality is just too harsh.

Rebecca Burch said...

Thanks, DM! I first saw "the wall" when I was in 6th grade and really just wanted to leave because we were going to McDonald's. Hahaha! I was really not expecting to be this moved by the memorial at all. I was blindsided! We're going back in June, and I will go, but this time, I'm going to be sure to have my kleenex!

It was good for my kids to see its effect on me, I think... then I explained to them that each name stood for a tragedy, and I think they actually got it. Of course, it helps that they know war. When I was in 6th grade, war was something I had no comprehension of, even though my Dad was in the service. He hadn't been in a real war -- only some minor "actions" that he sugarcoated a whole lot so I thought he was just going on vacation, really.

fishing guy said...

What a moving post. I feel the same way about the war. I support what is being done but want out of there as quickly as possible.