Thursday, June 19, 2008

I’ve recently been researching the Korean War for my Truman book. Best I can tell, here’s what happened:

After World War II, Korea is divided, more or less arbitrarily, at the 38th parallel. Then, in 1950, the North (bad guys) invades the South (good guys) and captures Seoul. We send troops, re-take Seoul. North counterattacks, takes Seoul again. We counter-counterattack and take it back again. In 1953 a ceasefire is signed. The new border is pretty much the same as the old one. Everybody’s where they were when it all started, except a million people are dead, poor Seoul is in ruins, and Hollywood’s got plenty of fodder for a smashing sitcom.

Anyway, I thought it might be a good idea to visit the Korean War Memorial on the National Mall. So I did. It’s actually a rather nice memorial. It’s made up of 19 stainless steel statues of soldiers on patrol. There’s a long granite wall with the inscription “Freedom Is Not Free,” etched in one end. It really made me think. At least until this idiot started loudly jabbering away on his cell phone:

But I digress. I really think Harry Truman would like this memorial. It’s straightforward. It’s not abstract. Boy did Harry hate abstract art. “I dislike Picasso, and all the moderns – they are lousy,” he wrote. “Any kid can take an egg and a piece of ham and make more understandable pictures.”

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