memor esto… quarum?

Since the previous post I’ve been ruminating on war memorials.

I have the impression that they used to fall into two categories: triumphalist and elegiac. The tone of more recent ones, however, seems quite different from either of these. It’s hard to capture, but it often seems to suggest that the people memorialized were not so much heroic, in triumph or sacrifice, as ill-used.

Perhaps this is better than triumphalism, at any rate. But it rather depends on who is understood to have committed the ill-usage.

Take the Vietnam War memorial shown above(*) — in Rochester, New York. Does it suggest that American grunts were marched into the darkness by their leaders? I of course am tempted to read it that way. But I wonder, how many of the good people of Rochester return from a visit to this object with that reflection in mind?

The sculpture certainly intends to evoke sympathy for the grunt, who is shown as a bit of a sad sack, really. He’s the victim of something or somebody. But of whom?

I have an unpleasant suspicion that these mopey monuments we see all over the place now really end up reinforcing the great American sense of self-pity — the vague hovering notion that we’re misunderstood and mistreated by the world. I wonder whether they don’t belong to the same order of cultural markers as that awful stupid maudlin POW/MIA flag that every municipality in America flies above its City Hall and police stations, right under the triumphalist Stars And Stripes.

Not only are we Top Country, we’re also, oddly, the great victims of the world.

(*) … Please! (You knew that was coming, didn’t you?)

16 thoughts on “memor esto… quarum?

  1. Triumphalism and self-pity/victimization, wrapped tightly in innocence. As American as baseball, hotdogs, outsourcing, and Agent Orange.

    I like your observation about the oft-paired symbols of the triumphalist stars-and-stripes and the delusional, victimized POW/MIA flag. They belong together, in perfect symbiotic relationship.

  2. Funny if you go to Germany, there’s a nice little cult of German soldiers who suffered under Hitler’s mad adventurism. The repatriation of their bones and upkeep of cemeteries is a well-oiled operation. At first, I was rather upset but then they showed a 65 year old man talking about how he last saw his father as a 6 year old and I suppose on a personal level for a boy of that age losing a father must have been a devastating event.

    But, quite apart from the exalted sense of victimhood of many in societies that habitually deal out death and destruction to those they declare as a matter of course beyond the pale of moral concern, the issue of war mourning is a profoundly reactionary position to adopt, imho. In places like Italy after the war, a whole cult of partisans and myth of widespread anti-Fascism was created, replete with songs and ditties–and many did die bravely putting up a fight–but in the end such gestures are best left to the Right (a la Franco’s hideous “valley of the Fallen”) as this is their preserve and is best avoided by a Left that looks to the future and is fleet-footed to not mope about the past. To be sure, In the heat of the moment a folk song can be of help but it’s a cautionary story if it curdles into a reflexive habit:

  3. I mean, the grunt has to be the victim of the government. Who else, right? Is it not somewhat elegiac that he’s marching off into nothingness, being ensconced by this wall?

    It’s something less than an apology for murdering 3.8 million people, but it doesn’t seem to say anything about a brave sacrifice so that America could be free or something.

  4. I confess to needing help with the Latin (?) “quarum” keeps getting replaced by “quorum” in the google search, so *that* must be the point of your title. “Be mindful of …. what?” Is that it?
    These things usually get direct hits by good old google, even the Greek tags.

    To the topic. Is this guy with the M-14 backing into existence or sneaking out of it?
    Is this a part of the Speer-ish football pool (not *that* kind) at the end of D.C.’s reflecting pond? Alas, I don’t travel and rely on pix on my PC’s screen for education.

    Opinion: The total ensemble would make Albert proud.

      • m-16 came in later — good full auto but too much velocity, downsized to too light a round ——— olden days but I liked the M-2 but only for bursts or semi-auto.

        Other hand, the AK [as in best ]though the Galil is right up there.

        • U may wonder where/how I was in contact [few cases, used not all but some] of above mentioned as also an old BAR — Swear to god, Guate was chock full of diverese weaponry — some from u.s., some from el salvador, some from israel, some from nicaragua,, cuba and lord knows where else. Sheesh, I think there was even a ‘puff’ to cut down village perimeters.

          ‘just’ one o f those dirty ‘little wars’ that folks up here really knew/know nothing about.

          Thankfully I learned which side was the ‘good’ one.

    • try duckduckgo rather than google —

      Definition: (fem. pl. gen.) their envy and jealousy, OF WHICH we know.

      The Latin Word Quarum has many meanings, mainly: (fem. pl. gen.) their envy and jealousy, OF WHICH we know. To view more Latin Words that start with the letter Q, please visit: Latin Words that begin with the letter Q. Can’t find what your looking for? Don’t worry, we have thousands of other Latin Words for you to browse through. You are after all on the fastest growing Latin Word resource site on the internet!

      more –
      [will also mention that ‘duckduck’ does not track while google -trys- to go everywhere]

  5. Sorry, missed the Rochester reference. Obviously I am confused. Main point: After being driven around Confederate sites and monuments in my youth, which I adored, I later grew to detest war memorials almost as much as the wars they commemorate. I believe that these VN memorials have sprung up all around our war besotted land. There is one I used to drive past in N.C. on I-85. (I never turned in for a look, my personal memories suffice for the SE Asian affair.) Are they made of some rock-like resin in cost efficient multiples or is there really funding for bronze and stone replicas throughout the nation?

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