Globes in the Heartland


Globe in the Heartland 2
Originally uploaded by Tobias Higbie.

As I mentioned in the comments to my last post, I have been planning to snap a picture of this veteran’s memorial since I first saw it on a bright sunny day last fall. Unfortunately, by the time I got back down to Arcola, it was a miserable rainy day. No picture could quite do this thing justice, in part because it is the town and the countryside beyond that make it so…strange.

Like every little town, Arcola has a few claims to fame. The creator of Raggedy Ann lived here, and the area was once the biggest producer of brooms in the US. The first settlement in the area was named, I kid you not, Bagdad. Currently, tourism is based heavily on the Amish community living in the surrounding countryside. The commercialization of Amishness is well worth a post in itself. But not today.

The memorial sits on the edge of the parking lot of the Arcola Center, at Main Street and Route 45 for those of you looking for a road trip. Across Main Street is a Casey’s (the small town equivalent of 7-11), across Route 45, the Illinois Central tracks and beyond that the old downtown area.

There are many ways to honor veterans. The black marble here certainly reminds me of the Vietnam Memorial in DC. But this is the first one I’ve seen that uses a globe as the central symbol. If there are others out there, I’d be interested to know.

I would also be interested to know what folks in Arcola think about it. I’m reluctant to subject it to the obvious critique because, well, people from these parts are currently dying on a regular basis in Iraq. I suspect that if I used the word “empire,” Arcolans would object. They might say, no it simply says that our people have died all over the world.

Yes, the monument definitely looks like a grave stone. If it is a symbol of empire, it is not a triumphant symbol at all. The globe weighs us down with responsibilities, and it demands the lives of our young. It also seems uneasily balanced atop the American flag. The hierarchy of place is at once accurate (from top to bottom: Earth, United States, Arcola), and chilling because the place we inhabit (the town’s mailing address) is buried at the bottom. Hometown America is ultimately just the place they ship the coffins.

What say you, dear readers? How is your town memorializing the war dead in our global campaign against terrorism? Is there a seed of rejection in these monuments that progressives might embrace, or just isolationism and xenophobia?

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One Response to Globes in the Heartland

  1. Tim Lacy says:

    Toby,You mentioned “Arthur” in your last post? Is that near Arcola? [BTW-1: Is there a way to add maps to your posts?]I took the globe as a reminder to Arcolans of their connections, per your weblog effort here, to the world at large. I’m not sure the term ’empire’ belongs in discussions about this memorial. It’s not that I believe the U.S. hasn’t acted as an empire, either currently or in history, it’s just that the aesthetics of the memorial/tombstone doesn’t say ’empire’ to me. Sadly, the military is probably the only connection many of Arcola’s citizens have to a world outside of Illinois. My grandfather’s perceptions of “the world,” its people, and “foreigners” were shaped a great deal by his experience in Korea.But returning to my original point, I think perhaps seeing this memorial helps pull Arcolans away from parochialism. But maybe I’m just having a temporary reprieve from cynicism on a sunny Friday in Chicago?!I don’t know what Chicago’s doing to memorialize the dead from these most recent wars in Iraq. I can’t think of any physical memorials off hand.- TLBTW-2: I’m looking forward to that post on the commercialization of Amishness, and how Amish exports to China are helping us reduce our trade deficit.]

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