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Memorials have deep meaning

November 30, 2010
By Richard Clark

ESCANABA - Two weeks ago I vacationed in Washington, D.C. I stayed away from government buildings. I didn't want to watch Republicans gloat and Democrats weep. I did observe about honor, idealism, irony and hypocrisy.

I stayed away from the Capital Building, the White House and the Supreme Court and limited myself to the Smithsonian museums, national monuments and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

The last time I visited Washington, D.C. the Vietnam War Memorial had just opened. A lot has been erected since that time.

Article Photos

Richard Clark

The World War II Memorial is located on the National Mall. In contrast to the Vietnam and Korean War Memorials the World War II Memorial is celebratory. Columns, arches and lights surround a fountain in its center. It projects victory in a war that was fought because the country had been attacked. Its goals were not ambiguous and the country knew when Germany and Japan were defeated.

The Vietnam and Korean War Memorials depict solemnity without victory. At the Vietnam Memorial the names of its dead are etched into black marble slabs that stand below the earth's surface.

At the side and above the earth's surface three metal grunts wearing flack jackets hold iconic weapons of that war, an M60 machine gun and an M16. Not in a victorious pose, they portray a stoic "I am doing my duty" pose.

At the Korean War Memorial 19 metal soldiers in ponchos walk eternal patrol. Faces on a granite wall flanking the patrol keep an eye on the men. The patrol projects the fear and uncertainty that fighting in a far off land for obscure reasons brings with it.

Both the Korean and Vietnam Memorials reflect the ambivalence the American people felt about each of those wars. They remind us that decision makers should use every method at their disposal to keep the peace before sending youth and future into the hell of combat.

One reflects upon the war on terror. When can it be build? What could it depict?

America's better angels are reflected in the monuments of our idealistic presidents. Abraham Lincoln's denouncement of slavery in his second inaugural address is chiseled into the wall of his memorial. It reminds us that Americans have shed blood for righteous causes and on behalf of other Americans.

President Roosevelt's declaration of the four freedoms, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want and freedom from fear are hewed into his memorial.

Lincoln kept the Union intact and FDR kept the country from slipping into chaos or communism. Without Lincoln's determination to hold the Union together and to end slavery America may have fractured and the South would have its "peculiar form of property."

Without Roosevelt's enthusiasm and determination America may have fractured politically into the messes similar to those in Russia and Germany during the early 20th Century.

The Ronald Reagan Building reflects irony. When built it was most expensive federal building ever constructed and presently it is only second in size to the Pentagon. Because Mr. Reagan signed the legislation authorizing its building his supporters named it for him. Sometimes those who express an ideal, such as smaller government, exempt themselves from the ideal.

One evening we attended "Hair" at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts. Interestingly people entering the opera hall at the Kennedy Center were in better physical condition than folks seen walking into Lambeau Field on game day.

Unlike Lambeau Field the entire audience at the Kennedy Center wore their shirts, didn't wear funny head gear, and didn't paint any of their body parts.

During my time in Washington Congressman-elect Harris of Maryland, a physician who campaigned to repeal the new health care reforms, complained because his health care would not start until he had been on the job for 30 days.

Harris represents Maryland and hypocrisy, not to be confused with the Hippocratic Oath. Perhaps enough is enough and he should pay for his own health care out of his $174.000 salary.


EDITOR'S NOTE - Richard Clark, Escanaba, practices personal injury law throughout the Upper Peninsula. He can be reached at



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