Chairman Bao is a Shih Tzu. We travel a lot. I drive. He watches. We've logged at least 10,000 miles and he's never once said, Sweetheart, don't you think you should stop and ask someone?

Friday, June 22, 2007

The National World War I Museum at the base of Kansas City's Liberty Memorial Tower is the only one of its kind in the world.

I'm not usually one for war museums. But this was amazing. It's as close as you'll get (and as close as you want to get) to the trenches. War, up close and personal. It's mesmerizing. It's awful. Did we really do this to one another? And then there was World War II. And Korea. And Vietnam. And now, Iraq.

You enter by crossing a glass bridge that spans a field of 9,000 poppies, each of which represents 1,000 combatant deaths. That's where Bao is. And look at the expression on his face. It's as if he's thinking, If this people do, I'm glad I'm a dog.
There are evocatively presented galleries filled with everything from uniforms, grenades, barbed wire, gas masks and ration books to field artillery, torpedos, a Model T converted into a truck for transporting battle supplies and a life-size replica of one of the Havilland fighter airplanes -- canvas and wood, as fragile as a moth. And the trenches, a thoroughly realistic re-creation with openings through which you can see how the soldiers lived and fought and died, while listening to archival recordings that describe their lives.

You can watch a vivid film (juxtaposed with No Man's Land) depicting the circumstances of America's entry into the war. Or peer into a crater that holds the remains of a building destroyed by artillery fire. Did you know that during World War I you weren't allowed to send anything written in a foreign language through the mail unless you provided the government with a translation? And that suffragettes were arrested as traitors? Do you know why we wear poppies on Remembrance Day?

I suppose young people today think of World War I the way I used to think of the Civil War, so remote that it can't possibly be relevant in a modern world. Or maybe they think it was like a huge computer game, but with real bullets. Whatever they think, they need to see this. Everyone needs to see this.

Lest we forget, and do it yet again.


Blogger Betty said...

Looks like a very interesting museum. I didn't know that about letters during WWI.

6:32 PM


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