I think you’re missing the point about Maya Lin’s Memorial Wall, which was perfect ( I believe this too, and I was in the military during Vietnam) in every way, regardless of whether you were pro-War or Anti-War.This can be argued, of course,and I don’t know much about the “politics” behind the screening process, but it was a design competition for architects. Whatever “input” you’re craving from Vietnam Vets or their organizations was most likely already pre-empted by the competing designs from other competitors: indeed, the Wall was just profiled on 60 Minutes and they showed one absolutely ridiculous design of a gigantic Army helmet with a long chain extending from it, and ending in a dog-tag. Perhaps you’d be surprised to learn after all these years to find out just how perfect and appropriate Lin’s design is in the eyes of veterans and their families, who have come to honor it and their fallen . I went there about 15 years ago, and searched every name I could remember from Basic Training in 1966 at Ft. Polk, and could find not a single name from my Company. I left in tears.
I have visited The Wall three times, and have left in tears every time.
It is quiet there, respectful,and seeing yourself reflected in the black granite as you scan the names of those who are no more, and all they and their hopes and dreams represented, you become profoundly saddened and profoundly grateful for their sacrifice.
The descent to the center and then the ascent gives a a subconcious feeling of descending into the hell of war, and ascending out of the monument renews hope in peace among men. The cut into the soil accurately represents the absolute division in our society that was present during the conflict, unlike other wars in our history.
I have always considered the design to be hugely respectful of those that actually fought and died in that war.
If anything, it gives a stark reminder of the true costs of any conflict which we as a nation choose to become engulfed in.
It tells you quietly, to consider the cost. Because the cost is very high.
And it tells you that as an American, you need to be a better person to earn their sacrifice and make it count.
It remains one of the most powerful monuments in how it chooses to evoke emotions to reflect on those who died as people and yet graphically show the enormity of the cost of war—of just one war.
It is masterful, and shows wisdom of the designer far beyond her years when it was designed.
This wasn’t my introduction to Greenberg.
I can’t find the original article by Tom Wolfe, but this may give you an idea of the original controversy.
“3. The memorial was originally quite controversial.
Many people commended Lins winning design, with a former ambassador to South Vietnam calling it a distinguished and fitting mark of respect and the New York Times saying it conveyed the only point about the war on which people may agree: that those who died should be remembered. But others lambasted it as an insult. Author Tom Wolfe called it a tribute to [anti-war activist] Jane Fonda, Vietnam veteran Jim Webb, a future U.S. Senator, referred to it as a nihilistic slab of stone, and political commentator Pat Buchanan accused one of the design judges of being a communist. Some critics even resorted to racially insulting Lin, the daughter of Chinese immigrants. Eventually, a compromise was reachedagainst Lins wishesunder which a U.S. flag and a statue of three servicemen were dedicated near the wall in 1984. Nine years later, yet another sculpture was added of three women caring for an injured soldier. Not only did the controversy quickly quiet down, but the Vietnam Veterans Memorial has since become both widely praised and wildly popular. It is still far and away the greatest memorial of modern timesthe most beautiful, the most heart-wrenching, the most subtle, and the most powerful, a Vanity Fair commentator wrote earlier this year.
Perfect? Are there other all-black veterans memorials in D. C.? Anywhere else? How many of them look like gravesites? Does any other war memorial you know list every (or nearly every) casualty of the war it proposes to memorialize. At best, the VWM is a eulogy, not a memorial. “Look at all those dead soldiers,” it screams, not “Thank these men for their service to America.”
I realize the memorial grounds have since become hallowed—not as the result of some edgy notion of aesthetics but because of the visits of relatives, friends, and other patriots. Where else CAN they go?