Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The War Memorial





It was a peaceful day outside of the national cathedral in Washington, DC. The cold, harsh winter had given way to the spring of Cherry blossoms and the ever present yellow of school busses on field trips. To the Smithsonian exhibit of Archie Bunker’s chair and the reflecting pool, ever reflecting the Washington Monument where a weary Richard Nixon once approached Viet Nam war protesters and asked, “What do you people want?”

Inside the cathedral a debate was going on. The moon rock embedded in stained glass looked on dispassionately.

They were discussing a new memorial. A very important and very special memorial for the last, great war. We must commemorate those who gave their best that we should be free. The Society for Preserving History had taken it upon itself to remember this controversial war. Their chairperson, Harper Throws, presided.

Oh, yes. It had been controversial. Most agreed that our cause was just and that the enemy was perverse. They wanted nothing less than to take away our freedoms. Steal our way of life. Invade and conquer. Of course we had to fight to preserve our love of peace.

But some had contested. There always are. The pacifists. The cowards. The traitors. The stooges of the enemy. The scum. Best rid of them.

But that’s not our task now. Best to forget them, failures that they are.

So, the agenda of this gathering was how to build a memorial to the last Great War. Proposals had been made. Ideas hashed about. Finalists chosen and now, a public hearing.

There were artists’ renditions and Power Point Presentations, once the IT guys could make it word. Some spoke. Some questions were asked. Some answers given. Everyone wanted this to succeed. Just everyone had no definition of success.

How about a pyramid? That’s a gazillion years old. A wall? God, done, like, everywhere on earth? A fist coming out of a block of stone? That’s so Soviet Union. Obelisk? Tower? Circle of stones? Why do war memorials always require stone?

Ugh! Politics! She rubbed her eyes at the podium and wished this part didn’t have to happen. Why should we allow the public at public hearings?

A tap came at her arm.

She started.

At her shoulder was someone. A…soldier, by the looks of him, though spent. Long scraggly hair. Unwashed. Dressed in Army surplus fatigues. And his eyes! “Haggard” was coined for those eyes.

“May I speak?” he said.

She was stunned, of course. Flabbergasted. Of all the gasts, this was the most flabber she’d ever felt.

The strange soldier took the podium.

Ladies and gentlemen. I wish to propose a memorial. A war memorial for the most important war in the entire history of Man. The war that was not fought.

I propose a monument not of stone, but of flowers. Let us set aside a slice of sacred land where children will come from local schools and plant these flowers every year, and nurture them and make them grow. And spell out in sacred language, the tribute to this war that did not happen. With daisies, crocus, and violets, let the following verse be spelt.

To the tens of thousands who did not die.

To the children not born of rapes from soldiers who had their better angels beat down by the lust of war.

To the many weapons which did not explode, searing the entrails of gunners on their flanks.

To the women not raped. Not killed. Not torn from their homes.

To the grandfathers who did not sit, their tears falling into their tea, watching their eighteen year old grandsons hypnotized by the lust of war.

To the sweltering gullets of arms manufacturers who did not sell our butter for guns, which they often sold to both sides. To those not growing fat on the marrow of other men's bones.

To the many veterans who never came back, shell shocked, and turned mad. To the wives and children who didn’t have to ask, “What happened to Daddy?”

The women and men not ripped from their loved ones or left to care for a wreck of a man or woman who once was.

Veterans not left, broken in mind and body, to sleep on the street, abandoned by the Lords of War.

The wealth of the high and mighty not accumulated in the manufacturing of weapons.

To the wives and children not traumatized by the loving husband and father, not given to fits of violence and alcoholism and drug abuse.

To those who are not cold, alone, maimed, homeless, desperate. And those who did not, on a lonely New Year’s Eve, sit in the corner of their cellar, abandoned by all, by country, by Army, by friends. Except for the shotgun in their mouth. To those who did not pull the trigger.

Let us make this monument wide and tall. Plant the tulips and roses in rows. The same rows that do not clutch bodies. Let poppies once more stand for peace, not the indigestion of war.

Let children run between the rows and know not what they mean, as they should not.

I propose this memorial. Let it be built. Let it be funded by the costs of that war not fought. It can pay for a thousand such memorials and the peace and joy of a thousand children in a thousand countries and still be a bargain.

The police arrived right around now and took the mad man away. To a better place, I’m sure.

So they continued talking about marble vs. limestone.

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