Seeing the Past in the Present Tense

This article challenged me to think about monuments are commemoratives in a way that I have never viewed them before. I have always just thought of them as ways to show people who weren’t present for the event to gain more knowledge about history but they do much more, or less, depending on the monument.

Paula Levine introduces monuments as a way to activate us because they require us to think about something that has already passed, we then associate the past with the present. Depending on the monument,  it can either educate us about a complex history and help people to see the past and move forward, or they can take away the responsibility of our memory. Commemorating a person or an event from history has a way of taking away various details of history by only showing one part of history. She uses the Emancipation monument as an example of the lack of reflection on the complex struggles for freedom.

Monuments serve as a way to trigger our memory by association. One monument that forces us to think of the past in raw form is Maya Lin’s Vietnam war Memorial, which holds the names of American’s that died in the war. With a monument, there is a question of how to articulate burdens of parts of history and give the public a true understanding of the events that took place. A successful way of doing this is a monument that is designed to encourage support or fight against such things as racism or fascism, like the Monument Against War, Fascism, War, and Violence– and for Peace and Human Rights that encourage our participation.

Ultimately, monuments and commemoratives force us to remember based on how the monument was designed and for what purpose. It forces us to remember the past and incorporate it into the present. Some monuments give us a true understanding of history and the burdens or brutalities. while others sugar-coat it. Monuments and commemoratives reintroduce ideological foundations into our life.


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