National Mall Travesty

There’s a tendency in this country to overdo it when addressing tragedies, victories, defeats, deaths, successes, as well as ethnic-defined accomplishments regarding all races. To comment on this subject is to invite criticism, even charges of racism or worse…if there IS anything worse. Perhaps the most profound excesses have to do with death, particularly death as experienced for a cause in tragic circumstances for which the deceased bore no responsibility such as a plane crash or involvement in war or assassination.

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 comprises 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 the vast majority of African Americans accomplish their dreams, the civil rights laws eventuated in nightmarish results, most notably the almost total disintegration of the African-American family, the basic unit of any society, as well as instituting a permanent underclass.

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 (or Communist/Islamic) sculpture than a serious subject, a monstrous Buddha-like object looking DOWN on everyone. To trivialize Martin Luther King, Jr. in this manner is unconscionable. He considered himself a servant, not a despot.