What The Monument?
October 19, 2011 in Sad
Once upon a time I visited the American Memorial at Omaha Beach, France. There was a simple monument abutting a cemetery of staggering symmetry. I was impressed with the perfection and geometry of the headstones. Row upon row of crosses stood in rigid alignment. Jewish stars scattered amongst conformed to the same tight tolerances. They were not crying fields and my life wasn’t changed, but I appreciated the effort and statement.
Later in time, I toured the Vietnam Memorial in Washington — it’s a fine piece of stone — simple and eloquent. Standing next to the wall is an experience that measures you. Stand close or walk away; it’s interactive without buttons. Someone thought about the space before inviting me in. I was impressed with the scale, the effort, the text and the lines.
Last week I experienced something different at the very shitty memorial at World Trade Center. The 9/11 monument has no vision, no moment, no Zen. There are loud waterfalls built into the footprints of both towers and a poorly manicured courtyard. Black slabs honoring the dead rim the squares and are set at podium height allowing you to follow the names cafeteria style.
The grounds at WTC were tough to work with — it’s urban space in the middle of a construction zone — but the reflecting pools at the bottom of the falls reflect more on years of horseshit politics and a final desperate scramble to cobble something together by the ten year anniversary than the events and victims they seek to honor. I wanted an important spot, a point of interest, a memory! Where was the masterwork sculpted from rubble and rising from the decade of the fuckyeah tumblr and the collapse of America? Not to be found.
I’ve walked through a few graveyards; old stones are the most interesting with mossed up fonts and sunken tilts. It’s the newer markers that shout bad taste. Spit shine headstones with laser relief of the deceased seem like poor choices. Cemetery strolls remind me that I am a crank, a cynic, and a non-believer who is uniquely unqualified to judge on matters of taste and heaven.
Note: The gift shop merchandise is unspeakable.