An Iraq War Memorial

I know that public memorials to a nation’s war dead are usually erected after a conflict, but lately I’ve been thinking that it’s time for American artists to begin seriously contemplating what an Iraq War Memorial might look like. As of this writing, 3,154 American soldiers have lost their lives in Iraq.

Years ago I visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., that uncomplicated wall of granite designed by artist Maya Lin. I stoically encountered the over 58,000 thousand names engraved upon the reflective walls, but when I saw two young women standing on their tip toes, trying unsuccessfully to make a rubbing of a loved one’s name that appeared just beyond their reach - I fell apart. I wordlessly strode up to the pair, took their pencil and paper, and being much taller, made the rubbing for them. Apart from the women pointing out the name of the dearly departed, the entire incident took place in silence. As the women took their sacred memento in hand and disappeared into the crowd, my entire body shook as I began to cry uncontrollably. I can’t begin to describe what I felt at that moment, all I know is that Lin’s memorial has become hallowed ground, a profound site for national remembrance that mirrors the scar in our national psyche.

A future Iraq War Memorial must convey that same intensity. But the conundrum is, how do we build a monument to the biggest foreign policy disaster in American history? As I was contemplating this and more, I received an e-mail from Robert Greenwald’s Brave New Foundation, announcing their web project - the Iraq Veterans Memorial. They are asking family members, loved ones, veterans and significant others, to submit a one-minute video remembrance of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. On March 19th, 2007, the fourth anniversary of the U.S. invasion, the compiled video statements will be published online. Organizers of the Iraq Veterans Memorial are hoping that thousands of people will link to this moving video statement, or commit to hosting the memorial on their own web sites and blogs. The following statement on the March 19th unveiling, comes from the organizers of the Iraq Veterans Memorial:

“Around the country people have been looking for ways to mark this tragic date. Inspired by the AIDS Quilt, the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, and the New York Times biographies of the 9/11 victims, Brave New Films and Robert Greenwald decided to create a living, online memorial to U.S. soldiers who have been killed in the past four years. The Iraq War Memorial will bear witness with 60 one-minute video remembrances of family, friends, co-workers, and military colleagues of those who have died and how much they will be missed. Non-partisan, with no pundits or commentary, the Memorial will be a tapestry of personal memories and anecdotes which will always remind us of the impact the lost soldiers had on those who loved them. The memorial will be unveiled on March 18th and 19th all across the internet. It will be easily accessible on iraqmemorial.org.

Our Brave New Foundation, in partnership with Gold Star Families Speak Out, Military Families Speak Out, Iraq Veterans Against the War, and numerous other anti-war groups, is in the midst of producing the videos and figuring out how the Memorial can have the biggest impact. We would love your help in getting people around the country involved in finding ways, and places to have the memorial seen. We are encouraging people to “unveil the Memorial,” to view it at various public places, schools, churches, bookstores, libraries, galleries, union halls, and cafes. Some artist/activists are going to project the Memorial on the side of buildings. If you have any other ideas or people we should contact, please let us know right away. iraqmemorial.org.”

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