Monday, March 1, 2010

Controversial Monuments: A Closer Look at the FDR Statue

After reading “Martyrs and Monuments” by Melissa Dabakis, we discussed how monuments are shaped and formed to commemorate an event; that every monument is built to convey a certain sentiment or idea. However as we saw with both the Police Monument and the Haymarket Monument, creating a monument that conveys everything that everyone wants is a difficult task and often times causes controversies.

A more recent monument that came to mind after reading this was the statue of Franklin Delano Roosevelt at the FDR Memorial. There was a lot of controversy surrounding this statue for a variety of issues. However, the biggest concern manifested from activists of the disabled, as they thought that FDR should be seen in a wheelchair. Because he was in fact disabled, they felt that he shouldn’t have his disability hidden as it validates the “shame” in disabilities that has become a social norm in our society today. The sculptor added wheels to the back of the chair as a way to commemorate his disability with a symbolic “wheelchair.” However, this addition to the statue can only be seen from behind. This still riled people up and even after many demonstrations and complaints from protestors, the memorials designers didn’t comply with their wishes of a full on wheelchair. The statue stands as it still does today: with FDR seated in a chair with no real light shed on the truth of his condition.

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