Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Oh, the Controversy of National Memorials

Somehow, war memorials are always lightening rods for controversy. The District of Columbia War Memorial, dedicated in 1931 by President Herbert Hoover, is the first war memorial built on the National Mall. Erected by the District to honor its own World War I veterans, unbelievably, the future of this simple monument is stirring much debate right now.

Currently the only memorial on the National Mall in honor of World War I veterans, there is a movement to turn this existing memorial into a national WWI memorial and expand the site using national funds. A subcommittee for National Parks, Forests and Public Lands in the U.S. House of Representatives will be holding a hearing today on a bill that would rededicate the District of Columbia War Memorial into the National World War I Memorial.

Of course, DC leaders are in opposition to this plan and want the memorial to remain a tribute to just Washingtonians who served in WWI. City lawmakers see it as another threat by Congress to extend its influence and power over the business of the District.

The saddest part of this whole debate is that the memorial is almost hidden from visitors on the National Mall. Surrounded by dense trees and bushes, unless you knew it was there, you could walk through the National Mall between the WWII Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial or along Independence Avenue and never see it.

I actually discovered it myself during an unexpected blizzard during a visit to the National Mall a few years ago. The snow fell so quickly and heavily that I had to stand in place and wait out the storm. I was terrified if I continued walking with no visibility, I would walk into a tree or worse, a wall of a monument. Once the snow stopped, I looked ahead and found myself gazing at this structure covered with snow. Completely unexpected, it appeared like a mirage of sorts.

I'm not sure where I stand on the rededication issue, although I understand both sides of the debate. Washingtonians already share so much with the nation and are protective of their own memorials and tributes. For loved ones of WWI veterans around the country, they would like their veterans honored and represented on the National Mall too; WWI is the only 20th century war involving Americans that is not nationally commemorated there. With new laws limiting the construction of new monuments or memorials on the National Mall, rededicating the DC War Memorial may be the only way WWI memorial supporters will get a national tribute to the American soldiers who fought in the "Great War."

No comments:

Post a Comment