Remember when super-patriots denounced the Vietnam Wall as “a black gash of shame”?
The word “iconic” is overused these days, but it’s a perfect adjective for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., which has become perhaps the most popular of shrines in our nation’s capital.
But younger Americans who aren’t old enough to remember the Vietnam War also aren’t old enough to remember the great controversy that surrounded the establishment of the memorial — the so-called Vietnam Wall — some 30 years ago.
Like the war itself, creation of the wall memorializing it was a messy business that didn’t always reflect honorably on the American people. The young student who designed the memorial, a woman of Asian descent, became the target of ugly racism. Her design was condemned in some quarters as disgracefully anti-American. It was called a “black gash of shame” and “an insult to the memory of those it is intended to memorialize.”
But the controversy soon faded, and the self-appointed guardians of orthodox patriotism presumably began hoping that no one would remember the stupid rhetoric they had aimed at the design of the Vietnam Wall.
Elizabeth Wolfson’s WORTHWHILE RETROSPECTIVE on the controversy includes this passage:
Following a march by thousands of veterans through the streets of Washington, D.C., to the National Mall site, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated on November 13, 1982. The controversy surrounding the memorial instantly vanished from the pages of the press, replaced by celebrations of its interactivity, tranquility, and emotive power.