The perfect embodiment enshrined through War Memorial Chapel.
Like any art, the pylons do not have a ?correct? interpretation, so we all have different views of these statues. What interests me is not the view of the university, but my personal views as I have always considered the Memorial Court as my home for deep contemplation, to clear and organize my thoughts on freedom. This explains why I wanted my class ring to have the image of the pylons.
As one walks up the steps of War Memorial Chapel the marble cenotaph centers the focus. Walking through the pylons, the tall men built in stone tower over the viewer creating a sense of insignificance. Looking up to the sky one feels the weight of these words ?sacrifice? and ?service,? reminding one what the names engraved in the stone gave; as the tremendous weight of history proclaims the power that ?freedom? represents. With this one walks further until the pylons are behind our bodies and hidden from our perspective.
For me, an aesthetic expression of divine truth seems to be present as it is on the ledge above those on the Drillfield. Nor do I believe I?m the only one who has this feeling, so it must be asked, what is the nature of this ?Truth??
According to the visitor?s guide from the Chapel, the ?truth must be proclaimed? as man searches for the Divine, ?that God is the foundation on which to build a useful and full life.? The walkways and steps ?represent the path to be followed in life, ever climbing toward the goal of service in God?s plan.?
The sobering power one is granted, is exacerbated, by the dangerous merger of Church and State. A memorial dedicated to the fallen attributes the motives to a morally superior divine. God becomes the foundation for sacrifice. God becomes the foundation for war.
But the merger of Church and State runs deeper. The justification becomes a divine power, and such abstract notions, when used to justify the brutal act of war, can be used to justify anything. This provides a blanket rationale where God is the foundation for any war the United States engages in, from the Spanish-American War, Vietnam, Operation Iraqi Freedom, to any future war in any nameless country as long as the president gives the order.
Herein lays the danger. We do not know why these men fought. The personal stories of the fallen names are not told but are instead given as descriptions of abstract and deeply vague nouns such as ?duty? and ?loyalty.? Instead the fallen names give these vague nouns a deep sense of awe, that duty ?is your obligation to know what you ought to do and to do it,? that loyalty is to be ?faithful and true to God, nation, state, community, school and home.?
The historical context of each war becomes meaningless. The underlying assumption is that each and every war was necessary to defend such vague nouns. The power invoked in the observer above that Chapel is that the path to God, to truth, was through war.
This undoubtedly undermines the significance of these nouns, sacrifice, service, loyalty, honor, leadership, brotherhood and duty. For these qualities are used to define every war, past, present and future. These terms become jingoistic rhetoric for all military action, regardless if it?s a defensive war against a dangerous adversary that challenges our liberties, or if it?s an offensive war against a weak country that poses no danger to our security.
War has therefore become simplified into a simple story, where American troops are the ultimate servants of God.
The maxim, ?That I May Serve? becomes transformed to something deeper, a paradigm which will lead to more names on the Chapel. As these names continue to be added, the aesthetic experience for many will continue to become more powerful. As this power grows, those who continuously lead our nation to war escape criticism. These leaders are the ones served the greatest by the profound maxim our school cherishes.
?That I May Serve? are the academics in ivory towers, hungry corporations in desperate search of markets, and bureaucrats drunk on power who will continue to throw our loved ones into the hell of battle, all in the name of ?brotherhood.?
Standing on the Chapel one must learn to serve not the God they created, but to save our brothers and sisters from a God who demands the sacrifice of life.