All Veterans Memorial
" In Honor of those who served United Spanish War Veterans Veterans of Foreign Wars The American Legin Dedicated May 30, 1955"
Just off a busy Interstate highway, Warder Park is a beautiful setting for a veterans memorial. I found it with the assistance of a local that offered to lead me when I asked directions. As he made the last turn and stopped to bid me goodbye he simply said, "Be careful, it will be dark soon and the guys hanging around here can get rough..."
The "residents" I found here didn't look friendly at all, they were desperate, and the entire tableau is one that I see far too often in this new century. he park itself dates back over 130 years and compliments an historic Carnegie Library.
The centerpiece of this memorial area is a great statue of Thomas Jefferson by Guy Tedesco and a three panel bas relief by Lorenzo Ghiglieri that I think are not at all understood today.
The panels take the visitor from the days of the Roman Senate, through Independence hall in 1776 and into the American Civil War. Each important struggle for liberty and freedom are represented by the philosophers and leaders whose ideals are still followed today. Men sit at tables discussing the topics brought forth by Plato, Aristotle, Fielding, Aquinas, Calvin, Luther, and a score of others whose sterling ideals all come together in the document that Jefferson wrote to set the standards of our own republic. Reading just one article or book from each man represented could create a well rounded curriculum for any liberal arts college.
As I write this I am forced to ponder a very sad fact of our current politically correct society - can the message of those three panels protect the statue of Jefferson from vandalism or removal? Probably not.
Jefferson is an historical conundrum. He epitomizes the ideal that striving for freedom, liberty and intellectual independence is a just effort. An enterprise that should be held in highest esteem and reverence. And yet, Jefferson owned slaves. His 18th century wealth and social status locked him into sucessive actions which allowed him to perpetrate the ultimate hyprocrisy - to champion freedom and liberty while keeping some in bondage.
Because of this, Jefferson's statue is at risk. In many American cities there is an uneducated populist outrage surging forward to erase the hypocrisy, the images and the names of our founding fathers who ignored their intellectual ideals in order to conform to social norms. Many of the men depicted on these three panels are trapped in the same illogical box. Slavery was common in Rome. Bonded servitude was accepted as a viable economic concept well into the 1800's in Europe and the New World. But the outrage, the desire to "do something" to correct the injustice will overwhelm the physical representations of the ideal, and because the roots of the ideal are no longer taught they will be ignored too.
As one who served, I am appalled by the thought that my country has come to this point - where the bright colors of freedom, liberty and education, are darkened by ignorance and intolerance. The best and the worst are being mixed in a caldron that yields only the darkest colors of hate and discontent.
I am certain that my fellow veterans to which this park is dedicated would join me in condemming any movement that ignores the simple fact that freedom and liberty are never certain unless they are accompanied by tolerance and compromise.