American exceptionalism is a dangerous myth
Move beyond Tea Party lies and phony patriotism. This Memorial Day, let’s remember our history honestly
At one end of the Reflecting Pool in Washington, D.C., in the expanse between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, the Bush administration authorized a memorial to World War II. This was a matter of months before the events of September 11. It seemed a strange design when it was first shown in the early summer of 2001, and so it proved when the monument was finished and open to the public in 2004. It consists of fifty-six granite pillars arranged in two half-circles around a pool, each pillar standing for a state or territory, each endowed with a bronze wreath. Each side of the entranceway—graceful granite steps down to the level of the pool—is lined with a dozen bas-relief bronzes depicting important moments in either the European or the Pacific war. At the opposite end of the small circular pool, a “freedom wall” commemorates the 400,000 American dead with 4,000 gold stars.
This message, chiseled into a stone tablet, greets the visitor to the World War II Memorial:
Here in the presence of Washington and Lincoln, one the eighteenth-century father and the other the nineteenth-century preserver of our nation, we honor those twentieth-century Americans who took up the struggle during the Second World War and made the sacrifices to perpetuate the gift our forefathers entrusted to us, a nation conceived in liberty and justice.