The Glum History of a Memorial

By: Alfred Webb

The Memorial has always been a crucial part of any culture or civilization. While earlier they were primarily built for the sake of the dead, today they are built more for living than for the dead, going by the kind of designs that have been doing the rounds. Death is something some living soul might never overcome, part of the reason why memories are said to live in a memorial.

Leaving behind a legacy is a moral ambition of any person. Experts have proved that the legacy factor is one of the prime factors distinguishing a human and an animal. Memorials have apparently not changed much in their appearance over the years. But we might be experiencing a transition phase in this subtle art too.

After the World War Two, memorials emerged as the common way to bid adieu to the brave hearts. But they were again mostly devoted to the important individual people, like the Jefferson Memorial, the Lincoln Monument, and the Washington Monument. Eventually, the humble memorial gained the recognition of large groups, like the Veterans Memorial Stadium and the Vietnam Memorial.

This was a time when memorials evolved from a work of art into being useful structures like public buildings and highways that had a practical use apart from their memorial purpose. Such generic memorials gradually became so common throughout America that nearly every city boasted of at least one memorial school building or a courthouse arena. The memorial highway surely passed through it if the city had no other memorial.

Contrary to popular belief, such huge generic memorials were never constructed for one single individual, but for a huge group like a battalion of soldiers in all wars. Gradually, this trend of generic memorials died out, simply because it was not in any way personal. It even did not give the sense of remembrance for time immemorial to a certain individual.

But that didn't mean that the idea of memorials for large groups was scrapped altogether. There is still the Vietnam Memorial which alluringly lists the name of every courageous soul who died. The Oklahoma City bombing memorial is another example of such memorials for a group apart from many other memorials spread out across the continent.

It is better that the memorials have again shifted back to the work of art they were. The University of California is a few of the many examples of the aesthetic uselessness of generic memorials. A handful of the students at that university know that the institution's Memorial Union building is dedicated to UC-Davis students and alumni who lost their lives in World War Two.

Another widely popular trend these days is the online memorial. While they may be devoid of the beauty of the solid granite, online memorials and tributes allow the interaction of many relatives situated anywhere in the world. Additionally, these memorials can be accessed anytime and from anywhere when a quick reflection becomes the need of the hour. Many over ambitious folks have tried to establish a business out of this trend, but have miserably failed so far. Come to think of it, who would even dream of clicking on movie advertisements while offering tributes to their loved ones?

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