Peace & Justice Monuments
Monday’s Monument: Peace, Earth, Sydney, Australia

Monday’s Monument: Peace, Earth, Sydney, Australia

The Peace Monument, designed by Michael Kitching, is a contemporary sculpture in Bicentennial Park at Homebush Bay. It was commissioned to celebrate the International Year of Peace in 1996. The layout is based on a complex interplay involving the Earth’s axis and the...

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Since May 2015, every Monday morning I have been posting a little essay about a peace or social justice monument. For more than a decade, ever since the peaceCENTER was contracted by a national peace & human rights group to develop a workshop exploring strategies for creating memorials about acts of violence and injustice that did not glorify the bloodshed, we have pondered the relationship between the landscape and civic memory.

“I would rather take care of the stomachs of the living
than the glory of the departed in the form of monuments.”

Alfred Nobel

As we showcase these monuments we hope you will join us in this exploration. For now, we’re concentrating on publicly accessible outdoor works. Some are grassroots and homespun; others, more complicated in their funding and execution. They all have a story to tell and we can learn from all of them.

Monday’s Monument: Peace Chapel, Huntingdon, Pennsylvania

Monday’s Monument: Peace Chapel, Huntingdon, Pennsylvania

Designed by architect Maya Lin, the Elizabeth Evans Baker Peace Chapel at Juniata College was constructed in 1989. The Peace Chapel is on 14 acres just east of the campus, part of the larger 315-acre Baker-Henry Nature Preserve, which is owned by the college. The...

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Monday’s Monument: Peace Wall, Ashland, Oregon

Monday’s Monument: Peace Wall, Ashland, Oregon

In 2007, in the midst of the Iraq War, artist and antiwar activist Jean Bakewell was frustrated and wanted to do something. As she walked along the railroad chain link fence behind A Street, an idea came: Invite artists and friends to make peace banners to hang on the...

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Monday’s Monument: Violata Pax, Montgomery, Alabama

Monday’s Monument: Violata Pax, Montgomery, Alabama

The Violata Pax (Wounded Peace) Dove symbolizes beauty and peace, sorrow and tragedy. Where you stand determines what you see. The sculpture was originally commissioned as part of a post-earthquake renovation project for the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi in...

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Monday’s Monument: Stand Up, Speak Out, Westbury, New York

Monday’s Monument: Stand Up, Speak Out, Westbury, New York

Stand Up, Speak Out was created in 1999 with the support of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Long Island Chapter, Students Against Drunk Driving, and the Nassau County Traffic Safety Board. It received national attention due to its original placement at the Nassau...

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Monday’s Monument: Peace Bench, Oslo, Norway

Monday’s Monument: Peace Bench, Oslo, Norway

This six-meter-long aluminum bench is shaped like a gentle arch so that those sitting on it are brought closer together. It is designed as a semicircle, so that those who sit on it slide closer together. It is almost impossible to sit on opposite sides of the bench....

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Monday’s Monument: Baltic Way Pēdas, Riga, Latvia

Monday’s Monument: Baltic Way Pēdas, Riga, Latvia

During the Baltic Way (in Latvian: Baltijas ceļš) (also called the Baltic Chain) roughly 2 million Latvians, Estonians and Lithuanians joined hands to form a 600km-long human chain from Tallinn to Vilnius via Riga. The mass demonstration commemorating the 50th...

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late 13c., “a sepulchre,” from Old French monument “grave, tomb, monument,” and directly from Latin monumentum “a monument, memorial structure, statue; votive offering; tomb; memorial record,” literally “something that reminds,” from monere “to admonish, warn, advice,” from PIE *moneyo-, suffixed (causative) form of root *men- (1) “to think.” Sense of “structure or edifice to commemorate a notable person, action, or event” first attested c. 1600.

Ten Questions to Ask at a Historic Site

In his book Lies Across America, Professor James Loewen posed these ten questions to ask at a historic site.

1. When did this location become a historic site? (When was the marker or monument put up? Or the house interpreted?) How did that time differ from ours? From the time of the event or person interpreted?

2. Who sponsored it? representing which participant groups’s point of view? What was their position in the social structure when the event occurred? When the site went “up”?

3. What were the sponsor’s motives? What were their ideological needs and social purposes? What were their values?

4. What is the intended audience for the site? What values were they trying to leave for us, today? What does the site ask us to go and do or think about?

5. Did the sponsors have government support? At what level? Who was ruling the government at the time? What ideological arguments were used to get the government acquiescence?

6. Who is left out? What points of view go largely unheard? How would the story differ if a different group told it? Another political party? Race? Sex? Class? Religious group?

7. Are there problematic (insulting, degrading) words or symbols that would not be used today, or by other groups?

8. How is the site used today? Do traditional rituals continue to connect today’s public to it? Or is it ignored? Why?

9. Is the presentation accurate? What actually happened? What historical sources tell of the event, people, or period commemorated at this site?

10. How does the site fit in with others that treat the same era? Or subject? What other people lived ad events happened then but are not commemorated? Why?

Want to learn more about monuments? Check out my bookshelf.

Ready to Kill

by Carl Sandburg (Chicago Poems, 1916)

TEN minutes now I have been looking at this.
I have gone by here before and wondered about it.
This is a bronze memorial of a famous general
Riding horseback with a flag and a sword and a revolver on him.
I want to smash the whole thing into a pile of junk to be hauled away to the scrap yard.
I put it straight to you,
After the farmer, the miner, the shop man, the factory hand, the fireman and the teamster,
Have all been remembered with bronze memorials,
Shaping them on the job of getting all of us
Something to eat and something to wear,
When they stack a few silhouettes
Against the sky
Here in the park,
And show the real huskies that are doing the work of the world, and feeding people instead of butchering them,
Then maybe I will stand here
And look easy at this general of the army holding a flag in the air,
And riding like hell on horseback
Ready to kill anybody that gets in his way,
Ready to run the red blood and slush the bowels of men all over the sweet new grass of the prairie.

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