Sunday, June 6, 2010

And so we wandered

I went with a friend on Tuesday night on a trip to the Prison Ship Martyrs' monument in Fort Greene park. It was sort of happenstance because neither of us really had any intention of going to that park to see that monument, we just wandered, which seems a bit apt considering the state of things lately. And so we wandered.

The prison ship martyrs' monument is dedicated to the men and women who were imprisoned by the British, for want of prison facilities in New York, in former Royal Navy ships that have been described as rotting hulls with absolute hell-like conditions. You did not leave these ships, you entered and died and whatever was left of you was cast overboard to be collected and buried in a shallow grave.

They moved what can only be surmised as the long turned to dust remains of those who perished to the monument and buried them in a mass grave cyrpt. Upon the crypt they erected a massive column that nowadays plays hosts to park-goers and fat camp participants engaging in the "required" passive recreation (not my words but those of a sign that the city posted). Apparently what is considered passive recreation is a fat camp run by what can only be described as what a Nazi would look like if they wore athletic shorts and a sweatband.

I digress though, what this post is really about is the past and how we collectively and perhaps in turn, individually memorialize and move on when it comes to the past. Public monuments serve a purpose, obviously. But do they twenty, thirty, a century after the fact hold the same kind of value as they did when they were dedicated. Aside from those that demand that we re-call, remember and defend the memory of those who died in such large numbers, or in such tragic circumstances, or for a cause considered part of the very fabric of the nation, most public monuments are, after a while, simply nice places to sit in summer time. I'm not sure there is anything wrong with that either.

I leave you with an image of the Monument just before sunset.

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