It sounds like the University of Washington student Senate is struggling to make some progress. After turning down a memorial to a notorious World War II Congressional Medal of Honor awardee, alum “Pappy” Boyington, they are now considering a more general memorial. At least this time they are getting it all wrong in a different way.
The real problem seems to be the students’ “carefully taught” inclination to “massification” — the tendency of liberal institutions, in the nocturnal twilight of Marxist collectivism, to insist on memorials to classes of people, not individuals. The kiddie Senate is now trying to figure out just how to word a memorial resolution that will be as “inclusive” as possible — in other words, one memorial for a class of heroes. For example, since 1998 there is a nice memorial to the alum who fought with the largely Communist Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War.
On this basis Statuary Hall in the Capitol and every the halls of every other state capitol would empty of their individual statues overnight and be replaced by single statues to The Statesmen, and a plaque on the wall with hundreds of names on it.
No memorials to Kit Carson, but one to The Pathfinders; none to Sacajawea, or Sitting Bull, but one to The Native American. Let’s get rid of all the statues to MacArthur, Eisenhower, or Thayer on the Plain at West Point, and replace them with a nice memorial to The American Soldier.
On that principle, at least, we could regain a terrific amount of space from unnecessary statuary all over the United States.
Of course, that same principle is refuted every day at Amazon, at Powell’s and at the University of Washington college bookstore. Harry Lime was wrong about those little specks down below the Prater Wheel. As a publisher and editor I understand why and have profited from the natural inclination of book buyers for decades. Readers would rather read a biography of someone, and follow the ups and downs of one human life, than a class. Just track the purchases of faculty and students alike and the evidence is overwhelming.
The genius of e pluribus unum was that it meant the uniting of individuals into one nation, not the uniting of some fervid Marxist sociologist’s latest attempt at the taxonomy of classes that make up America. I have published several of those and the biographies sell better. If anything, America’s growth as a beacon to immigrants was driven by American’s consistent desire to destroy the divisive class systems evolved throughout the rest of the world. The whole American experiment is intended to empower and honor the individual citizen.
It is “we the people,” not “we the classes” that opens the United States Constitution. How ironic that our intellectual elites are determined to rediscover classes and subclasses ad infinitum as immutable elements only papered over by “the power structure” and unavoidable. And finally taking the entire concoction one step further, our elites imply the individual is basically powerless in the face of them.
The massification approach has almost destroyed primary and secondary student interest in fields like history. Young students in the midst of trying to define their own identities in a confusing world are not particularly interested in relating to the “class” du jour, their trendy teachers keep trying to shove them into. As teachers and religious leaders have known for millennia, the story of a Martin Luther King, an Abraham Lincoln, or Mohammed, for that matter, is far more riveting than an account of the general class struggle they may be pushed into by the most brilliant Procrustean act of scholarship.
If the University of Washington has any doubts about any of this it should try a simple experiment that won’t cost the University or taxpayers one extra dollar. Let the University erect a collective memorial to “University of Washington War Heroes,” with a plaque with however many “war heroes” the kiddie senate think fit their latest notions, leaving room for a very few more, and, of course, making it possible to erase those who fall out of academic fashion for whatever reason.
Perhaps it could be a marble base with a bronze on top that may look like Brancusi’s “Bird in Flight” on acid. And just to show they are “deeply moved” by all of this, add an “eternal flame.” And incidentally, while this is under construction, let the University of Washington remove all the individual statues it may have littering the campus as inappropriate memorials to the cult of personality.
And let United States Marines’ ready contributions pay for a memorial that won’t take up an inch of the University of Washington’s valuable campus space. This memorial will be a World War II Marine Corsair fighter plane crashed tail up and nose down in the shallows of Lake Washington next to the campus with the irrepressible Pappy Boyington, class of 1933, climbing out of the cockpit grinning and waving a bottle at those on shore.
Then let’s see which memorial is more beloved by the students and faculty of the University of Washington.