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  • Postmodern Memorial Will Strip Eisenhower's Legacy

    This week two more Congressmen, Dan Lungren (R–CA) and Aaron Schock (R–IL), joined the Eisenhower family in opposing Frank Gehry’s design for the Dwight D. Eisenhower memorial, which disrobes a statesman of his legacy and slaps Eisenhower’s name on what is, in fact, a monument to the national experiment in moral relativism.

    In art and architecture, postmodern thinking has slowly but steadily stripped public spaces of potential beauty. Now the movement seeks to strip statesmen of their meaning.

    Conviction is almost a dirty word in this era of relative truth. But great things are often done or inspired by individuals with convictions. Dwight D. Eisenhower is no exception. The small-town boy turned decorated war commander, U.S. President, and university president was an American statesman. In the journey of his life, the boy from Denison, Texas, grew and matured into a man and discovered a few truths that guided his actions in moments of hardship and decision. It is the man Eisenhower chose to become—despite distraction and adversity—we celebrate.

    As Supreme Commander of Allied Forces during World War II, Eisenhower led the struggle to liberate Europe from Nazism. Of that time, he remarked, “Our pleasures were simple—they included survival.” Shortly after WWII, a “Draft Eisenhower” movement catapulted him into national politics and soon into the White House as the 34th President of the United States he fought to defend. Like George Washington, he was the war hero President, beloved by millions of Americans—Republicans and Democrats alike—as well as millions more throughout the world. Eisenhower benefited from growing up in America, the country he loved, but he never ceased to stress the importance of individual character and life-changing decisions: “The history of free men is never really written by chance but by choice; their choice!”

    The proposed Eisenhower monument, however, plans to strip him of his moral discovery, his convictions, and his accomplishments. The proposed sculpture—surrounded by towering walls of glass and concrete, adorned with a tangled metal tapestry—depicts him as a barefoot boy. He is reduced to the state of his existence before maturity, before struggle, before the acts that made him deserving of a monument.

    Architecture and art not only reveal society’s moral and intellectual state, but they also inform future thought. Gehry’s monument—in the hyper-egalitarian spirit of the French and Russian revolutions—says, “Look here, an average boy like you or me. Let’s celebrate the ambiguous virtue of the common, mass experience, of adolescent ignorance.” The monument’s boy need not be Eisenhower—it could be anyone. So what’s the point?

    The point is to hijack the bureaucratic process of planning presidential memorials in order to strip an American statesman of his honor, his manhood, and his acquired wisdom. Future pedestrians need not fear an encounter with heroism. Instead, the future observer of Gehry’s little-boy Eisenhower will stare blankly into the visage of an average, undecided adolescent and feel no judgment, no inspiration, no urge to excel, no call of honor.

    Emanating from Gehry’s design is the belief that humans are interchangeable, no one better than the next, regardless of merit, experience, character, or sacrifice. That virtues (honor, valor, public service) are all constructs, and we humans are all basically the same morally. No need to celebrate those who distinguish themselves through acts of bravely in the service of their country.

    The ribbon will be cut, the statue unveiled, the monument opened, and the march of the soul-numbing idea goes on: “Why bother?” Gehry’s design is decidedly forward-looking. It is a fateful prophecy of postmodernism’s children: Barefoot boys on concrete, boxed in by glass walls of political correctness that forbid them to inquire after truth and keep them from great thoughts, let alone noble actions.

    In time, statesmen will not only become rarer, they will be cut down before they can raise their heads above the rest in an effort to see what the masses refuse to notice. Statesmen preserve the fragile existence of our way of life and the ever-present threats to future liberty—a life and liberty that Eisenhower defended against great odds and with great effort.

    According to philosopher and scholar of aestheticism Roger Scruton, architects such as Frank Gehry “have equipped themselves with a store of pretentious gobbledegook with which to explain their genius to those who are otherwise unable to perceive it.” Such structures are “designed to stand out as the work of some inspired artist who does not build for people but sculpts space for his own expressive ends.”

    Happily, we do not have to speculate about what Eisenhower would have thought about Gehry’s design; he has already told us. At the dedication of a new Kansas library in 1962, Eisenhower asked the crowd: “Do you think that America has advanced morally as we have materially? When we see our very art forms so changed that we seem to have forgotten the works of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci…is this improvement? What has happened to our concept of beauty and decency and morality?”

    Ultimately, architecture critic John Silber lays the blame for public eyesores on those paying for them: “Architecture of the absurd is flourishing thanks to the debasement, inexperience, and supine gullibility of the clients.” The clients of the Eisenhower memorial design are the American people and their representatives in Congress, which funds the Eisenhower Memorial Commission.

    Today’s efforts to defend Eisenhower’s legacy from Gehry’s misinterpretation are part of the ongoing fight for the very soul of our society. Congress should reconsider the funding for this aesthetic and moral travesty. More Members of Congress should join the entire Eisenhower family to ensure that President Eisenhower receives a tribute reflecting both his preferences and his monumental contributions to American liberty.

    Posted in Featured, First Principles, Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    11 Responses to Postmodern Memorial Will Strip Eisenhower's Legacy

    1. David Phillips says:

      It would be good to have a President who would stand up and demand that the sacred past of our great leaders be honored above the self-honor of men like Gehry, and it would be good to have a congress that would say no to those who hate our country and our history.

    2. Herbster says:

      I am no fan of FDR, but look what was done with his memorial. FDR insisted he NEVER be shown in a wheelchair – under any circumstances. However, once the "Disabilities lobby" put on the pressure, his memorial now shows him in a wheelchair. Is there no shame left?

      Eisenhower is now being given the same treatment the greatest man of the 20th Century, Winston Churchill, has received. Gradual denigration and downgrading from hero status to that of "Just another guy." Churchill, to my understanding, is no longer taught in UK schools. No heroes, please. We are all "Equal" in our ignorance of history.

    3. Slick says:

      WE pay the bills . . . why do we stand for this kind of destruction of American heroes? This kind of devaluing of a former President literally makes me sick to my stomach. No wonder people on the Right are becoming discouraged. We are bombarded every single day with this kind of disrespect and the slipping in the muddy slime of progressiveness. May God have mercy upon our souls!

    4. Larry Uloth says:

      if the above is a picture of the new monument…it look like a group of Kenyan idiots under a banyan tree which puts it right up there with the UN we are all the same village BS. Sorry folks Ike was a towering figure among the rest of man…he deserves so much more than this kumbyah thingy….it does nothing but continue the descent in mediocrity that the progressive world is dumping on us.

    5. Doc says:

      Pitiful idea for Eisenhower monument!

    6. Lloyd Scallan says:

      It's really hard to understand that the majorty of Americans will not recognize that the left must distroy our past before they can make their final push to force this nation into total socialism. Pick up most any of today's school books, from 1st grade through the 4th year of collage. Anyone with knowledge of the past will soon realize our history is being eraced or rewirtten to accomidate the "progressive" movement that started at the turn of the last century. Now, with fraudulent election of Obama, the final piece is in place..

    7. Red Baker says:

      Redo the monument. Prohibit the modernist crud.

    8. judyw says:

      I'm glad to see this post. As Andrew Breitbart, God rest his soul, told us, culture is uphill to politics. Monuments like this are where culture and politics meet, and I appreciate commentary from an artistic perspective. Ugly, banal art is part and parcel of our ugly, banal culture and our ugly, banal politics. Beauty in art moves people's souls toward beauty in other areas of life. We need much more beauty and much less ugliness.

    9. Laura Henning says:

      It's interesting to compare the recently unveiled gigantic monument of Martin Luther King which celebrates the beliefs of mature man with the proposed one to General Eisenhower that for some mysterious reason emphasizes him as a boy. The first is also solid and powerful; the second an amorphous design of glass and metal . No wonder the Eisenhower family rejects the project as it now stands. It entirely avoids the greatness of the man who had as least as much impact on the history of our country as did Rev. King.

    10. Dave says:

      I never agreed with the payroll tax reduction to start with as it defunds Social Security that much more. But they did it last year. They should have cut it to 1% this year to help reduce the pain next year. Why don't they just raise the limit to well a over millionor more, whatever it takes. Raisubg the age limit is stupid. Who is going to hire some one 65 -70 years old.?

    11. hondr says:

      Run that architect out of town.

      Provide a fitting monument for Ike, and one inclusive of the boys he led, and the country he cared for.

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