Wednesday, September 2, 2015

#IWSG SEPTEMBER 2015 CHECK IN - IN MEMORIAM: NEW YORK'S TEAR DROP MONUMENT


NOTE: In light of last month's post, I had intended to write on something else, and had already written this one, but was waiting for the appropriate time to post it. But some intervening things occurred, so I pulled out the "duty" post. More on this development at the end.


In the course of our daily lives, I think most of us try to learn something new, or pick up an oddity here and there, but to have something come to light that has been so blatantly disregarded and ignored, and by my own country, the United States just seems, well, outlandish. Such is the case of the “Teardrop Monument” that was given to the U. S. in 2006, on the fifth anniversary of 9/11, by President Vladimir Putin and the Russian people in acknowledgment of the terror and sorrow the United States and the world suffered on that day in 2001. I should note here that twenty-six Russians also died on that day, in the WTC.


The statue is 100 feet high, and you can see Manhattan in the background; this was by design of the sculptor, as it is the first thing you see upon entering into the harbor, before the Statue of Liberty, even.

Why am I writing about this now? Because it was never acknowledged; never reported in the press. I never knew the monument existed until today, nearly nine years after it was installed and dedicated and I am appalled that we, as a country, never expressed our appreciation towards the Russians, our wrote about it in our press. We never said anything publicly to them, nor did we reach out to them in our time of sorrow, and say, “yes, we are one in this”, but then, we're great at doing that. Lest we appear weak, or stoop down to what? Our inferiors? There is nothing inferior about the Russians and I do not understand why it was never announced in the press, or the ceremony aired on t.v. But, I do understand the mindset of our politicians.


Around the base of the statue is every name of a person who died on 9/11.

We have become the world's bullies. We have become small-minded and we no longer give credit where credit is due. This is nothing that is part of any one administration, but over time has become part of the entire institution of foreign policy. Take Ukraine. I do know that there are U. S. soldiers on the ground there now, in an "advisory capacity", but to what purpose, who can say. This sets a hugely dangerous precedent, because once you have feet on terra firma, it's not too far from shedding blood on one side or the other; it's de facto. Either unintentionally, accidentally, or by provocation, someone gets hurt, and then, we get drawn in. That is pretty much how we got pulled into Viet Nam, Tonkin Gulf (an entire fabrication, later admitted by Robert MacNamara and General William Westmoreland) not withstanding.

Yes, there was a lot of territory-gobbling going on over the centuries, and there are historically sound reasons for every case. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was a threat to Russia when the Tsars took the territory in the years between 1654 and 1917. Lenin annexed Western Ukraine after it lost during the Ukraine-Soviet Civil War. Stalin annexed that part of Ukraine that was lost in World War II and Khruschev annexed the Crimea because Turkey was an ally and part of NATO, although it was considered an "administrative gesture".


courtesy: zerohedge.com
This map speaks for itself; most of the Ukrainian-only speakers are in the west; the Russian-only are in the east. But that doesn't tell the whole story, Between each region, there are very nebulously drawn lines, where for generations, people have gone back and forth. What they hate and despise one day, will be loved dearly the next. One of the most astonishing things to me is this: in any conflict that is regional, or in the case of a Civil War, you have the greatest number of atrocities. Is it perhaps because the combatants are so much like one another? It's one of the reasons the Scots can't get their own house in order.

The problem with Ukraine is this: one minute, one batch of Ukrainians are pro-Russian. Next week, they're burning Putin effigies in their front yards. This is more of a territorial dispute, or tribal and cannot be “overseen” by outsiders. In Mariupol, right now, for instance, one patch of folks are being shelled, but they literally have no clue if it's the pro- or anti- Russian or Ukrainian forces. After centuries of to-ing and fro-ing and inter-marrying, they don't even know. We DO. NOT. BELONG. THERE. PERIOD.


The stepping stones and memorials carved lovingly by sculptor Zulpar Tsereteli in the walkway that surrounds the monument.

The other thing is this: Russia is a proud, tough country; etched in blood and determination. They did not survive and win World War II, just because we cobbled up Lend-Lease and gave them a phony garden-hose in the form of uniforms and what-nots. They had the guts and the balls to survive by doing things like, swimming the Donets River, with two people and one rifle to land in Stalingrad and fight what seemingly was a  lost cause, and at the end of it, what had been a charming city of 500,000, was nothing more that a pile of rubble and ash, with 1,500 starving civilians, and 900,000 German soldiers who surrendered, under the command of their General, Heinz Guderian. It was the turning point of a vicious, vicious war, and the Russians still fought on offensively for another two and a half years.

In Stalingrad alone, the fight went on in buildings, on floors of buildings, from room to room, to try and determine the winner. Stalin dug in, and with his Red Army and their certainty that they could not lose THIS battle, or the war would be lost, they fought on through the deadly winter. It was hardly worth mentioning that there was no “city” left, it was a battle to the death between two foes and the blood flowed. The Russians took full advantage of psychological warfare in using snipers and death came from nowhere to the German, when it was least expected; smoking a cigaret or taking a leak. The Wehrmacht ground itself against an iron foe that would not budge and the German Army finally relented; exhausted, spent, humiliated and would never again advance in the East.

The body count for both military and civilians and death camp victims has been estimated as high as 55,000,000, while American casualties run about 458,000, so, when the Russians come to give us a statue acknowledging our pain, don't you think they know a little something about it?


I know there's an old-style Menshevik lurking around somewhere in me. I do so love these old Soviet-style prints from the war. They were churned out by the thousands in the USSR in the Great Patriotic War as it's called in Russia, but this particular one comes from a Russian game I play, and no, it's not Tanki, Jeremy. :D

It was around the day of, or maybe the day after 9/11, I was watching the reactions from other people around the world, and they talked to this elderly man in Krasnya Ploshad, or Red Square and he was crying. There were flowers everywhere; it seemed the entire floor of Red Square must be covered in them, as people came to show their respects. The man was talking and crying. He had fought against Hitler and he couldn't believe that the evil had not been vanquished. I was so moved by him and by his outpouring of grief for what had been an old foe. Surely, we had patched up those differences. I remembered the time I had seen a wing of the RAF sit down to dinner with a wing of the German Luftwaffe they'd flown against; my father called me to tell me about it and thought it was wonderful. If they could let bygones be bygones, so should we, I thought.


Rather like the Viet Nam War Memorial, Zulpar Tsereteli, placed a plaque at the foot of his monument with the name of every person who died on 9/11. 

Yet, the recent events in Ukraine and the discovery of this lovely Monument given to us in a a spirit of love and empathy, has gone completely unnoticed or remarked on by the American public. The sculptor, Zulpar Tsereteli designed it and chose the spot in Bayonne, NJ, where several of the victims' families lived and where it can be viewed with Manhattan in the background. The man also paid for it with money from his own pocket and donations from Russian people. Ironically, the first thing people will see now, when entering the United States by sea, is this “Teardrop Monument” and then the Statue of Liberty. Although the placement is intentional and understandable, I still fail to understand, why we never acknowledged this beautiful gift; an expression of shared grief.

Loss of any kind is hard; the Russians have had it inflicted on them and, to be fair, under the regime of Stalin, they dealt with the internal struggles of purges and red-baiting, but they were human. I remember reading an auto-biography by some Soviet scientist who survived Stalin's purges, and one of his quotes stuck with me; “We used to bitch about the s.o.b., but we were kinda sad when he died.” I thought, “spoken like a real trouper!” Andre Gromyko and Eduard Shverdnadze, among several others managed to survive Stalin and write their memoirs. Whether or not they meant them to be, there is some hilarity in their words.

People are people. Everywhere. We must never forget that. When we demonize a group of people, or just generalize them, we make them less than human, thus they are less deserving of our kindness, generosity, or thanks when they make a gesture so humane. What must they think of us? Years ago on a visit there, one suitcase contained nothing but small items to hand out to people I met. Small make-up cases for women, soap and cologne for men. The simplest gestures and the merest attempt to even try and communicate in Russian brought delight, which is not the case in other countries that I've traveled in. I ended up leaving the suitcase behind; the Cold War was still on, and there was really not much I could bring home. Years later, I've ended up with Matryushka nesting dolls, old USSR flags, and icons galore, from friends who never forgot.


I was not going to write about this, but some things come up, and I had this stored away, for a rainy day, so I decided to go ahead and post it. After the passing of Jim, I may have mentioned that he had at one time been incarcerated. I have been on the committee of the FAC here in Florida, trying to help ex-felons re-adjust to coming back out into society. Through them, I was asked to help situate a wonderful young lady who has paid her dues and is coming back out into the world. This left me with less time than I would have liked to prepare for #IWSG, but that is okay. This will do. I will be writing of my new roommate, Lexi and her adventures. A couple of things about her; she's much more musically talented than I am and she has a family that loves her very much! I expect she will do well out here and she's paid her debt to society. Hell, we all make mistakes and we all deserve a second chance!

As for writing; I'm getting some done. I'm trying to put my book together, "Homeless Chronicles in Tampa" that explains how I went from having a home out in the country to managing to lose two houses and end up in a homeless shelter. The symphony season started today and we tore through "Scheherazade" like we'd all played it a million times. It stands to reason that we haven't, but it's a huge favorite with kids growing up, I guess. It was certainly one of my favorites! Stay tuned!

13 comments:

Pat Garcia said...

Hi,
I am so glad I drop by. I had no idea that the Russians had given the United States a monument to honor 9/11. I find it very sad that this has been ignored.
Thank you for posting it and all the best in your public projects to help others.
Shalom,
Patricia

Jemima Pett said...

I didn't hear about the Russian monument, either. You make lots of valid points about the situations in the divided countries, too, but are the US troops in Ukraine part of the UN Peace-keeping force? It may be a slippery slope for US policy, but surely the UN should support a small country against one with overwhelming military superiority?

Politics is a difficult field simply because of the smoke and mirrors so many powerful countries choose to employ. And they are nearly always doing things in the name of altruism while covering up their vested interests. Usually in oil or gas. Oh wait, which of those countries have natural gas fields? Or a pipeline?

I'd better stop before I get way out of my field. Thanks for a very thoughtful post! (even if it does contribute to my #IWSG depression!)

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

What a beautiful post. I had not heard of the statue either. May be because I'm Canadian. Although, the Canadian reporters are pretty good about posting things no one else will take on. It is a stunning monument. My son is a Staff Sergeant in the Army, so I avoid politics as much as possible. Human nature feeds off what it exhibits, I believe. Great post, Viola. You're very thoughtful.

Christine Rains said...

I remember seeing a photo of that monument once, but that's all I've ever heard about it. It's absolutely beautiful. Thanks for this thought-provoking post.

C.D. Gallant-King said...

I had actually heard of this, but I'm Canadian so maybe it's just the US that was ignoring t? Snopes as actually even reported on it to acknowledge that it's real - I guess some people were so ill informed that they thought it was made up?

Heather M. Gardner said...

I live in New York and was aware of this monument. I have to say I remember reading plenty about it in the news. Both good and bad, since there are a fair number of people who don't understand it.
I think it's beautiful.
There are many other September 11th monuments, but I don't know all of them.

Thank you for sharing with the IWSG.
Heather

Viola Fury said...

@Pat,

I am so happy you visit, and I certainly enjoy visiting your blog as well. I actually have another post waiting in the wings regarding something entirely different (color me shocked!) but as, events for this month kind of piled up, and I'm concentrating momentarily, helping Lexi get situated in my household (which has been astonishingly easy) and trying to saw my way through "Scheherazade", everything else kind of went a-kilter. Oh well. Truth be told, I was glad for the opportunity to post this, because I felt terribly about the fact that such a loving gesture had been made and so little fanfare outside of (apparently) Canada and New York was made regarding the event. For every drop of blood shed, for every innocent life lost, it seems to me, that is one thing that people of all cultures can understand and unite over. Regardless of whether or not we were foes in the past, or if we're dickering over oil and gas now, the first thing we should regard as humans is the preciousness of each and every life; the loss of what that life means: in science, art, industry, medicine or agriculture. If we look at it in that way, as abstract as that may sound, it may have some real impact and not be just some homilies spilled in the pulpit or in a Senatorial well. Thank you so much for reading Pat, and Shalom to you!

Viola Fury said...

@Dearest Jemima!

Thank you so much for standing by! The U.S. Troops in Ukraine are NOT part of the UN Peacekeeping Force; they are part of the 173rd Airborne Brigade and they actually had to go to the State Dept. The reason for this is 173rd expected to be training basics, when the Ukrainian National Guardsmen were much more advanced; the 173rd wanted to make sure this was okay by State Dept standards. The answer was "yes". Although this advanced training originated in Poland, they quickly moved into southeastern Ukraine, and yes, they are part of a UN peacekeeping force, with British, Canadien, Polish and other nationalities. The 173rd Airborne IS NOT a part of the UN peacekeeping force, and is regular Army. According to the UN, there are a total for 78 peacekeeping forces from the US; 44 police, 6 military experts and 28 troops. The 173rd Airborne has 500 highly-trained paratroopers, known for hand-to-hand fighting and their stealth. They are the equivalent of the Green Berets, or SAS.

You really said a mouthful about politics being "smoke and mirrors" and no one does it better than a place that is so Byzantine and has been for centuries. People made a science of figuring out who was next in line in the Politburo to become Chairman of the USSR, just by where everyone stood during the May Day Parades. This is just as entangled and the reward is tangibly higher. Gas? Oil? You bet. But Ukraine is also "Russia's Breadbasket" and yields some of the finest and most abundant wheat in the world. Stalin's "dekulakization" of Ukraine resulted in approximately 20,000,000 deaths between 1929 and 1932, because the Kulaks - who were very well off - would not yield in becoming part of the "collective" and he did it very simply by blockading the central part of Ukraine, as it had very little access to the outside world, except through Russia, so Stalin simply executed some, arrested others and sent them to Siberia or starved them out.

Stalin, being the wunderkind of propaganda, made the Kulaks out to be true enemies to the state. Rather than EVER working a compromise with a perceived foe (unless he knew there would be a better time for that foe's destruction) he simply eradicated anyone who got in his way. Stalin's USSR, was not the USSR imagined by Lenin and Trotsky.

When it come to power struggles such as this, there is always an agenda, as well as the history that may be separate from the agenda. In this case, I think it's more of a bunch of confusion that exists along the border states between Western Europe and Russia. Ukraine is a special case, because it has had Russians living within it's borders for so long, which is why I advocate NO OUTSIDE INTERFERENCE. I don't want you to be depressed, Jemima. What will be, will be. I want you to think of this lovely statue that a brave and valiant people gave to the U.S. in a gesture of love and solidarity and remember that. Thanks for stopping by! <3

Viola Fury said...

@Joylene!

Thank you for stopping by! First off, I want to thank you and your son for the service and the honor you do your country! That is wonderful! It is a beautiful statue isn't it? I love the idea that the sculptor decided to put it in Bayonne, New Jersey, as so many of the victims and their families reside there and that you can see Manhattan from across the harbor.

You are right about human nature feeding off what it exhibits. If it were up to me, we'd see nothing but fluffy kittens, hedgehogs, puppies trying to bark and laughing babies, but unfortunately, we get a lot of news; most of it bad and a lot of it is wrong. I dig into and research everything when I post something, in order to learn more and tend to stay with what I know, although I do have a surprise post coming up that is entirely outside of my realm of knowledge about anything and it was fun writing it.

As to politics. My father was a college student during the McCarthy era and for a long time, I thought he just didn't care about politics, but I was wrong. He was very politically shrewd, but kept it to himself. My mother, on the other hand, used to run around and tell people she was a bomb-throwing anarchist, for fun. So, we had some exciting dinner table conversations.

I became really politically aware in the early 80s, during the whole Gdansk Shipyard thing, and at the University of Michigan, we had a huge School of Easter European and Russian Studies. I was a Music Major, so it made perfect sense for me to go out and march with the Solidarity crowd, until I ended up on the National News and I got a panicked phone call from my dad who lived in California, later on that evening. Some raving about "names on lists" and what-not. My dad was pretty unflappable, so I figured I should find out what he was hollering about. Hoo-boy, did I get a lesson.

The US pretty much kow-towed to some back-bench junior senator from Wisconsin who was desperate to keep a stalling career going. He did this, but hollering on the Senate floor "I have a list of names here of 237 American Communists" and then, he was invited to join the HUAC for a witch-hunt. People's lives were destroyed, particularly in the arts and intelligentsia. My dad was in college at the time, and one of the professors in his school committed suicide upon receiving a summons to appear before the HUAC. Of course, this is going to leave an indelible mark on someone, but that someone wasn't me.

I backed off on the demonstrating, but got politically active in other ways; learning about our "supposed enemies" of whatever time. Russia is a special case; I have always loved the Russians, brought there primarily through their music, but everything about them is just so mystical, weird and oriental, even on this side of the Ural mountain range. But, I went on to learn all I could about Viet Nam, and eventually now, the Middle East. People are people. When we look beyond the culture and look at the every day person and ignore the fanatics, you find a guy mowing his lawn and trying to feed his kids. I always try and keep that in the forefront. I hate the part of politics that says "I want what you have", but I love the part that sometimes surprises and says "Hey, I've been there; let me help you." Thanks for stopping by, Joylene! It was a pleasure!

Viola Fury said...

@christine,

Thanks for stopping by and commenting. It really is a beautiful thing and I was astonished that it had been installed 9 years ago. There very well may have been comment locally regarding it, but the sculptor went to so very much time and trouble and the Russian people donated money to it, that I thought surely, it would have gained some mention in the national press, but no.

The other thing I could not find was any kind of reaction from the Russians regarding our ignoring their gift. To me that signifies a couple of different things. The Russians are rather world-weary, or wise in the ways of countries and men and do understand that personal gratitude is much more important than a big dog-and-pony show. I also think, that at this time, although it was five years, that is a blink of an eye in Russian History, which is measured almost in eons and is more Asiatic than Western, and for them to sully their gift with their umbrage at our ingratitude would somehow spoil what was a very kind and beautiful gesture. You kind of have to peel through some layers with them to get to get past what may seem to be indifference or ruthlessness or sadness. Nothing could be further from the truth with Russians as a whole.

Anyway, I do thank you for coming by and reading, Christine. Still muddling along with some kind of bio for #IWSG. Framework's done; now to make it coherent, interesting and readable. A formidable task indeed!

Viola Fury said...

@jemima,

You do know I meant "stopping" and not "standing" by! Oy! Thank you so much for reading; you're a darling! <3

Viola Fury said...

@C. D.,

Thanks so much for stopping by! The first thing I did when I saw the meme someone had made of the "Teardrop Monument" was run to Snopes.com and I was horrified. Yes, the U. S. did ignore it and I was instantly furious. I became a little less furious when I understood the sculptor's intent to put it in Bayonne, New Jersey, which is the debarcation/embarcation point for most of the victims and their families and that Manhattan can be seen in the background of the Monument, but it doesn't excuse the fact that our sitting President, George W. Bush was not present at the Installation, although Vladimir Putin was. Bill Clinton went in his stead, and that speaks worlds about what the entire Bush/Cheney (around since the time of Richard Nixon) felt about the whole thing. It was covered locally, but not one damn word was written nationally, and I for one, think that is a shame. When did we become so petty? When did we become so unforgiving? If the RAF and Wehrmacht can make nice, if the U. K. and Germany are once more on solid ground, if the U. S. is sending tourists over to Viet Nam and China, why do we continue to treat Russia as if the Cold War were still going on?

I believe there is still the fundamental idea of the Cold Warrior that exists; not just here, but in both countries, but it's not insurmountable and certainly should never, under any circumstances be part of something that is a gesture of friendship. The Russians took it upon themselves to reach out to us, and we basically back-handed them across the face.

We had horrible fires here in Florida about fifteen years ago. The Russians sent fire-fighting crews to help, as did many other countries. This is not just about countries anymore. As I said, people are people. Everywhere. The United States is putting some really grievous foreign policy into play; not only in Ukraine, but also in the Middle East. While we sow Dragon's teeth wherever we go, we would do well to remember that we also sponsored Osama bin Laden against the Russians in Afghanistan in the early 80s and people who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Thanks again for the visit! <3

Viola Fury said...

@Heather!

Thank you so much for stopping by! I'm glad to hear it got some write up in the local press and I know there was some controversy; I did a lot of research in writing this. What would be fascinating is to come to NYC and do a 9/11 tour and see all of the various monuments that were established there. I think one of the reasons it may have been "overlooked" (although I think it was intentional) is that it was installed in Bayonne, NJ, where so many of the victims and their families lived. That was intentional by the sculptor and he walked around and searched for weeks before finding the perfect spot for his work. I think it is the perfect spot, but it really beggars belief that our sitting President, George W. Bush did not meet with President Vladimir Putin for the installation and that President Bill Clinton went in his stead.

I am so very glad you stopped by yesterday and I will be by to visit you! Thanks again, and Happy Labor Day Weekend! Mary