Memorial Day Reverie

On this Memorial Day, I wonder how we will commemorate the Iraq War.
I would not like to see a memorial which is designed by committee or
built on the schedule of politicians. I would like to see a memorial
which fits our time. A 21st Century memorial, built piece-by-piece by
the peaceful, self-organizing assembly of those who remember as a plea
to those in power.

Cincinnati has a special place in the history of the Iraq War.
President Bush attempted to justify the war in a speech at the Museum
Center on October 11, 2002. I think it's only fitting for the
memorial to be built here. I think it can be done, and I've written a
little dispatch from the future to show one way. Please indulge me by
reading on.

CINCINNATI, October 11, 2007.

They came to Cincinnati from every part of the country. Friends and
families of the fallen and wounded, veterans and civilians, parents,
spouses, children, brothers and sisters started arriving here in
mid-September. No one organized it. No one funded it. No one
stopped it.

On October 11, 2007, they started a memorial on the date of speech
that President Bush gave in Cincinnati five years earlier. They came
to remember what was said. They came to remember the fallen.

They came with a more concrete purpose than asserting their right to
lawful assembly. They came because an ongoing war like this one
demands that a memorial be built now, at the scene where the
architects attempted to justify it, not ten or twenty or thirty years
from now.

They came to build a memorial to the dead and the wounded, civilian
and military. A memorial built like none built before. A memorial
for the age we are in. A memorial that starts now and grows as the
war goes on.

First, a layer of sand was spread on the grass oval in front of the
Cincinnati Museum Center. A few wheelbarrows worth of sand put more
grains on the ground than the Iraqi civilians who have lost their
lives since the conflict began. Abraham, the patriarch of three
faiths, was promised by God that his children would be more numerous
than the grains of sand. They spread that sand to remind the
spiritual descendents of Abraham, inside Iraq and inside the United
States, of their common bond.

Upon the sand were placed stones, one stone per American and Coalition
life lost or irrevocably, traumatically changed. Each stone was
native to the home of dead or wounded. New Hampshire granite, Hawaiian
lava, Indiana limestone--they were all there. Each stone was
inscribed with a name. Each stone was the size of a clenched fist.

The shifting crowd watched silently through the weeks as those left
behind, left behind their memorials to build a greater memorial. One
woman walked up to the circle of sand, alone, and placed her stone and
disappeared back into the crowd, alone. A young man was wheeled up,
his stone taken from its place in his lap and gently placed on the
sand by another.

One by one the stones built into a pile, higher and higher. A simple
cairn built on sand. Assembled by those who remember.

While the war goes on, the memorial grows. More sand at the base,
more stones in the pile.

Each grain of sand, each stone a line on a petition.

Remember this war always. End this war now.

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