August 3, 2009

Separate But Equal (Again?)

There is a small park in Wichita, Kansas, adorned with memorials to honor veterans who have passed on; there will soon be one more memorial. The planned statue eternalizes an American soldier, a veteran of Vietnam, standing with his arm around a South Vietnamese comrade.

However, this new memorial is different...

This latest addition will not be placed with the other statues but apart, separated by a six-foot mound. Why? Because some American veterans objected to the placement of a statue including a South Vietnamese soldier in their memorial park. The park was to honor the memory of American servicepeople only, they said.

American soldiers fought alongside South Vietnamese in the Vietnam "operation." Though the war effort failed (and rather horribly), the Vietnamese-Americans living in Wichita wanted to express their appreciation for the Americans' alliance by creating the proposed memorial.

Apparently they're not quite as allied as they had thought.

And so the plans go forward for the statue to be erected, but only on the condition that it is apart from the others, and under mild protest- from a few American veterans still concerned about preserving the American purity of the park, and from Mayor Carl Brewer, who expressed his anxiety about anything that promoted the concept of "separate but equal," or in this case, separated by a berm but equal...

I gladly honor the memory of American veterans, but I believe that the South Vietnamese, as our allies, have the right to be honored alongside our veterans. And like the good mayor, I am distinctly concerned at the thought of anything "separate but equal"-- because there's a reason that phrase is enclosed in quotes.

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