National Mall Travesty
The excess is usually enhanced in the death of a young, as opposed to an older person, though the “young” identification can be quite high, often with the attached circumstance of the survivors – young children or a large family, for example. The disagreements connected with planning and constructing a “proper” monument for the 9/11 victims, or the Oklahoma City victims of 1995, or the 49 victims of a plane crash in Lexington, Ky., in 2006, not to mention the expense, can make memorials something of a hassle, though those who die in the line of duty deserve recognition.
An egregious example of overdoing it is seen in the 30-foot-tall statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., not because King doesn’t deserve recognition, including a statue, but because of the flamboyance exhibited by the out-sized statue accompanied by the four acres of land and other accoutrements connected with it that actually trivialize the memorial. The effect is a sort of garishness that demeans one of the great men of the twentieth century.
The height of the statue equals that of a full three-story building. By contrast, it is eleven feet taller than the nearby statue of Abraham Lincoln. Even if Lincoln had been sculpted as standing, his statue would still be shorter than a three-story building. The mall includes statues and monuments remarking the heroic figures that have made the country what it is – people in government service, often spending years in mortal combat, and, of course, sometimes dying by the hundreds of thousands in the process.
King’s is the only statue on the mall of a private citizen, yet it towers above all other statues, as if meant to denigrate the services of people such as the 405,000 American GIs, including blacks, who died in World War II or the 58,000, including blacks, who died in Vietnam. Even Lincoln, besides being a president, fought in a war, albeit not one of great significance. By contrast, the statue of FDR, a four-term president, is merely life-size.
Perhaps adding insult to injury, whether or not intentionally, the group controlling the MLK project had the statue designed by a Chinese sculptor and actually produced in China. After promising to use American union labor in constructing the memorial, which came in pieces from China, the group reneged and used unpaid Chinese laborers, notwithstanding that King was gunned down during a trip in Memphis in 1968 to support sanitation workers.
One might suppose a black American sculptor would have been engaged for the project, or at least an American, but such was not to be the case, which might also make one wonder if there was an “in-your-face” motive, especially noting the outrageous size underlying the project, whether or not consciously so. Facts are hard things with which to argue and the fact that the memorial was outsourced to communist China gives the appearance that it was never meant to reflect anything American, meaning that the sponsoring group perhaps wanted no connection of King to the U.S.A. If so, more’s the pity.
The King speech most closely connected to the area involved was his “I have a dream” offering delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. President Eisenhower had already used troops in Little Rock many years before to integrate a school, but King’s speech was a precursor to the civil rights enactments by Congress of the 1960s. It was an important speech remarking the right of every American to try to achieve his/her goals…on an equal footing.
The enactments resulted in a comprehensive example of the law of unintended consequences. Far from culminating in helping African Americans accomplish their dreams, the civil rights laws eventuated in nightmarish results, most notably the disintegration of the African-American family, the basic unit of any society.
A three-story statue of Mao Tse Tung would be expected in China, where communist rulers think big when commemorating themselves…or Russia’s Stalin – egos demanding out-sized memorials. Think the famous statue of Saddam being torn down in Baghdad. On 09 April 2003, CNN reported the statue to be as tall as four men – some 24 feet. This about says it all. Notwithstanding whether or not the statue belongs on the mall at all, the MLK Memorial Foundation exhibited a total lack of taste and delivered an undignified memorial, more like pop art than a serious subject, a monstrous Buddha-like object looking DOWN on everyone.
And so it goes.