Stan Crader

Author & Lecturer on Writing About Rural America

Politically Post-Modern Monuments and Memorials

Deciding on the title to a blog is more difficult than writing it. Is post-modern a future self-defeating statement? Who knows? What the heck is Post-Modern? By definition post-modern is something that is perpetually happening the following day or year. And, it’s always advancing just beyond reach. It’s one of those concepts that’s perfect for professor types to pontificate.

Post-Modern generally refers to a way of thinking that suspends or completely abandons traditional mores. In order to be completely in compliance with post-modern thinking, all rules must be abandoned so as to be completely free in thought and expression. But, isn’t strict non-compliance really just compliance in reverse?

In my blogosphere opinion, anarchy is probably the closest thing to Post-Modern. I suspect a class room of 1st grade students on the first day of school is about as close to anarchy as one can hope for. There’s no leader (among the students) and no specific order from which the students are revolting; it’s simply chaos void of plan or purpose. There you have it; Post-Modern is akin to a classroom of 1st graders.

Americans have always been fond of monuments and memorials. What’s the difference? A monument serves to recognize a person or event. A memorial is similar except it’s bigger and somebody died. There’s a giant Stan Musial monument outside of Busch stadium. Now that he’s deceased, it’s also refered to as a memorial.

In my opinion, or preferred belief, the worthlessness of which I explained in a previous blog, there’s no such thing as a politically post-modern monument. I chose that title because it was catchy and marginally represents the subject of this week’s blog – memorials. The statement makes no sense and isn’t grammatically correct, again, much like the 99ers. What the heck happened?

Washington’s Memorial is a sky-reaching obelisk. It symbolizes the many things at which Washington was first: War, Peace, Presidency, and more. When viewing the memorial one has Washington in mind but thinks of all things American. There are many things of note about Washington’s Memorial. One is that its construction was halted for a long period of time due to lack of funds. Can you imagine that happening today? The interior of the memorial is inscribed with numerous references to God. And the grounds surrounding the memorial don’t feature compromise memorials.

Jefferson’s memorial came much later than Washington’s, and suffers from political influence and revisionist history. It’s a beautiful structure that conjures up American ideals. Excerpts from the constitution are inscribed on the interior walls. However, many of the inscriptions are truncated to such extent that the meanings of the statements are altered. The memorial does not reflect Jefferson’s beliefs as much as it does the designer of the memorial. But still, it’s not surrounded by compromise memorials.

Since the building of the politically influenced Jefferson Memorial, there is the Gateway Arch. On the banks of the Mississippi River in downtown St. Louis is a simple arch that represents the gateway to the west. The location was chosen because the official start of Lewis and Clark’s exploration of the Louisiana Purchase began in St. Louis, at the confluence of the Mississippi and the Missouri Rivers. Purists believe the journey began at Monticello, where Jefferson laid plans for the exploration. That’s their preferred belief. Plenty of political maneuvering surrounded the design and location for the westward expansion memorial, but there’s little visible sign of the hubris struggle when viewing the monument. Notice that it’s a monument. It symbolizes a movement for which nobody died. Sure, Sargent Floyd died during Lewis and Clark’s journey of discovery, but he died of ruptured appendix. He would have succumbed no matter where he was at that time.

The Vietnam Memorial, two long pieces of dark marble, clearly illustrates the event. It’s cut into the earth, representing a national scar. It was a war without a clear beginning or end and without victory. Those who died while serving are inscribed on the walls, which pays a lasting tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Poor politics, a biased media and treasonous Hollywood celebrities used the war to divide the country. The memorial is clearly more than two walls engraved with names of those who died. It’s a memorial to both the people who died and to a dark time in our nation’s history.

This memorial is surrounded by compromise memorials.

Too many in positions of influence didn’t understand the symbolic aspect of a memorial so a less abstract memorial was added; three soldiers, white, Hispanic, and black. Well, that wasn’t good enough so another was added to represent women.

Memorials are meant to be almost ethereal, but not quite, abstract, but specific, so as to cause the viewer to journey through their mind’s eye to the place and time. Memorials are meant to create an all-encompassing emotion and not espouse a political statement. Maya Lin’s wall depicts the real aspects of the Vietnam War, with a specific focus on those who died, while symbolically recognizing all who served, and the war’s effect on America.

The three men and three women memorials, while depicting a specific element of the war, exclude all others. The politically correct memorials stir feelings for those they explicitly represent, but not the all-encompassing notions that are provoked by “The Wall.”

Stan Musial’s monument, soon to be a memorial, represents different things to different people; and that’s the way it’s supposed to be. To me, the bronze statue of Stan the Man represents a player who played his entire career with one team, had one bad season and asked for a cut in pay for his dismal performance that year, and loved his fans and the city for which he played. It’s not politically correct or incorrect, it’s not political at all; it’s just a bronze of a man who represents the true meaning of Titus 2:7-8.

 

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