Last Friday, President Trump, while at Camp David, signed into law the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Act, which allows for the construction of a war memorial monument on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
The Global War on Terrorism monument will be ďa tangible symbol of the sacrifices made by fallen U.S. service members and their families while they were supporting the Global War on Terror,Ē according to the website gwotmemorialfoundation.org.
The Global War on Terror (GWOT) had its beginnings in October, 2001, in the northern mountains of Afghanistan shortly after the World Trade Center towers in New York City were attacked and destroyed on September 11, 2001.
For 16 years, longer than any other U.S. conflict, American service personnel have been fighting the GWOT all over the world. The GWOT War Memorial has a hopeful 2024 completion date and the cost to build this yet-to-be designed monument is estimated at $25-$35 million.
The timing for the GWOT Memorial Act legislation to become law is quite interesting to say the least, given all the recent tumult over some other war monuments.
This past week, weíve seen some terrible, hateful acts of violence because of Confederate war memorial monuments which are displayed on public property. At some point in history, a government body and a majority of the local population thought the installation of those monuments was the right thing to do. It is now up to those local government bodies to have public hearings to listen to the local people before they determine the fate of those war memorial monuments.
The fate of a town square statue should never be determined by an anger fueled mob with a 25-foot yellow tow-strap. Right now, or at least at the time this was written, the ire of the mobs is directed toward busts and statues of rebel generals whereever they may be.
Is the removal of Confederate general statues where all of this ends? Is this the point where the offended are going to be satisfied? If theyíre not satisfied ending with the Civil War time period, itís not too difficult to imagine this continuing back further in time to our colonial leaders, because many of them owned human property, using the verbiage of the day.
When the authors and signers of our Constitution come into question, then the bedrock foundation of our country itself may be thought invalid by some. Many of our first presidents, who are memorialized in stone all over our Nationís Capital, will be on the list to have their statues removed.
Going back even further to the pre-revolution era, the founders of our country, some with now questionable backgrounds, have their likenesses upon pedestals and steeples. Where does this erasure end, and just how far back are the offended demanding to continue with this purge of history? Because if we are going back far enough to invalidate our deepest roots, then I want to be in Philadelphia when the mob with the tow strap tries to take down William Penn, a colonial servant owner. The mob better have a long tow strap because Penn stands atop the spire of City Hall. For the record, that spire is a 550 foot tower. Pennís likeness is about 35 feet tall, made of bronze and weighs about 25 tons, and has been there since 1894.
Weíve all learned of our countryís history and the imperfect people along the way who tried to better the world around them. I have shaken my head at some of their decisions, and of course I compared them to our current values and laws; but I never thought to purge everything about them from history because they lived in a different time.
I canít help but think of New Yorkís own President F.D. Roosevelt, the longest serving U.S. President. He was a man so popular he was elected four times to the presidency. FDR has one of the newer monuments in Washington, DC. His monument has him seated in a chair, with his terrier Fala at his side, his gaze toward the Lincoln Memorial. This is the same president who, just days after December 7, 1941, authorized the U.S. Army to round up and intern over 100,000 Japanese-Americans to relocate them to camps far away from the West Coast.
President Roosevelt and U.S. Government were doing what they thought best at the time the decision was made. We now know how ugly their idea was, and we vow to never repeat that disgraceful part of our history. But we canít just erase the ugly parts of our history as if it never happened. Itís difficult to remember once itís erased. If the FDR statue does get removed, Fala is probably safe, judging by the shiny buff marks made from millions of petting hands. However, the erasing of history isnít that farfetched.
Joseph Stalin did his best to erase things and people he didnít like from the history of Russia. And Stalin was way ahead of the technology curve when it came to photo-shopping images. There are many versions of the same photograph of Stalinís closest inner circle of comrades, with and without certain people, who were literally removed from history. When I learned about Stalinís re-write, I was left with the distinct impression what the Russians were doing was corrupt and unscrupulous.
We should all be uncomfortable with the idea of emotional people making decisions in haste. Those are the decisions that are the hardest to reverse. Here in Chenango County, there are Civil War monuments in Greene, Bainbridge, Sherburne, Columbus and New Berlin. Because the northern states were the victors in the Civil War, itís safe to assume these local monuments are secure in their respective public spaces. If the political and emotional tides were to shift in the future, I hate the thought of an angry mob toppling those statues into rubble, just as some people in Durham, NC must have felt last week when their war monument was left crumpled on the ground.
Now back to the newest monument legislation, the GWOT memorial. I have a vested interest in the Global War on Terror and Iíd like to think my warís memorial will stand in perpetuity. But with the current events swirling around us, it is hard to say with any certainty what the ultimate fate of the yet-to-be built Global War on Terror monument will be.