Op-Ed

Redo monument in King's likeness

The Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial is a 4-acre monument of stone, trees and water located along the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C.
The Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial is a 4-acre monument of stone, trees and water located along the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C.

Seems there's controversy about the monument to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Washington, D.C. A quotation carved in the pediment reduces a thoughtful King phrasing down to a trivial and trivializing boast, and it needs to be changed because, "Dr. King and his presence on the Mall is a forever presence for the United States of America, and we have to make sure we get it right," according to the article.

The lead architect countered that it would be impossible to carve the quotation in its entirety without destroying the entire monument. Once again, it seems the truth just isn't practical.

Or maybe it is. I found myself wondering why the American people would buy a 30-foot statue of the demigod Mao, arguably China's last emperor, emerging from a granite mountain while wearing a Martin Luther King Jr. mask and put it on the National Mall. Then I found out it was made in China — a take-out order. The politics of it are over my head and, as a symbol of cultural and economic imperialism, it's too much to think about. Simply as art, it's unfortunate.

I couldn't blame the Chinese artists, commissioned to represent a great man in a struggle far away, martyr to an issue that they, living in the most homogeneous society on Earth, probably couldn't really even comprehend. Through Chinese eyes, they made the best monument they could make, but I wonder about my fellow citizens who don't seem to notice or care that it looks more like an imported bobblehead toy than an appropriate and thoughtful expression of honor and gratitude.

Start over.

Bring King down to a more human scale, don't have him emerging from a mountain, but rising from the people and unfolding his arms. Let him extend one hand exposing his palm so that when some different civilization digs him up 4,000 years from now, they will put on his tag in the museum that this was a dignified and determined man who offered his world peace with dignity.

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