News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: Remembering the Brave, Reproaching the Guilty

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Remembering the Brave, Reproaching the Guilty

Helena Cobban's suggestion for remembering the Iraq dead echoes with the gestures of times past:

Reproach and remembering are, of course, the two main messages of Maya Lin's beautiful Vietnam War memorial. But reproach is also a strong element in another U.S. memorial from the Civil War era: Arlington National Cemetery.

Arlington National Cemetery was established right on the grounds of Gen.Robert E. Lee's family home, on the banks of the Potomac River looking straight across at Washington DC. Lee, who had been a general in the Union Army before the Civil War, was probably the highest ranking military man to defect to the Confederacy. (His wife was also the grand-daughter of George and Martha Washington.) After Lee's defection, the Union Army sent troops to occupy his homealong with all its extensive pastures and other landholdings. In 1864, the US government expropriated the land from the Lee family. By that time the dead from the war were becoming very numerous. The Union generals transformed much of the Lee land into a vast war cemetery, burying the dead right up to the edge of the family home of the man they blamed most for the prolongation of the rebellion and the terrible, continuing toll of the fighting.

So here's my plan. Maybe the best reproach for this present war would be for the next US administration to acquire land right up to the door of George W. Bush's family home on Prairie Chapel Road, in Crawford, Texas, and to establish there a large and impressive monument of reproach, mourning, and remembrance. Or we could have two such monuments: one in Crawford, and one in St. Michaels, Maryland, that could take in and engulf the homes there of both Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.

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