Just wrapping up my trip to D.C. with some quality time with Biggest Guy. We spent the day wandering around D.C., hit the National Gallery (I got to show him and his friend Hugh the three Cornell boxes there) and walked much of the Mall.
We saw the Vietnam War memorial – moving, effective, powerful – as compared to the World War II memorial – which depressingly does look a lot more like it belongs in Albert Speer’s Nazi capital of Germania than in ours.The Vietnam War memorial works in large part because it is dignified, and more important it is interactive. I stopped and watched the crowd as they walked the wall, stopped and touched names, took pencil rubbings, and left and read small notes and offerings. I read many of the notes left at the foot of the wall today. They ranged from the personal and gripping to the broadly political and occasionally emotionally erratic. Somehow, I can’t imagine the wall without them.
The World War II memorial – a circle of pylons around a sterile central fountain – encouraged no such involvement. The garish wreaths, and the martial eagles holding the banners at the entrances, left me imagining how Leni Riefenstahl would have photographed them. I can’t imagine another response to this kind of iconic imagery.
I’m grateful to the veterans of World War II – my father included.
They deserve better.