|Stephen Blackwelder, conductor of the DePaul Community Chorus. Also onstage is the
Oistrakh Symphony of Chicago, which plays with the chorus.
Should we honor the COVID dead?
The current tally for the United States is 972,000 and climbing by 1,200 a day. At this rate, we’ll hit 1 million Americans dead of COVID-19 sometime in mid-April.
Do we memorialize the fallen? And if so, how?
Uncomfortable questions. Americans are used to solemnizing those who die in wars. They have their own day. (Sigh. It’s Memorial Day.) And while some Americans visit graves, in general the holiday is marked with ball games, blowout sales and potato salad.
Some countries have national moments of silence. I’ve been in Israel during their Memorial Day, Yom HaZikaron, and at the appointed moment people stop driving and stand outside their cars, heads bowed, for a two-minute moment of silence.
Silence is not a very American concept. We’re more into physical monuments. My hometown had a statue to a Union soldier on a plinth in its downtown triangle, a silent sentinel that I never associated with anyone dying until now.
The World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., is a sprawl of low walls and stumpy columns and burbling pools that I would be hard-pressed to envision in my mind’s eye, and I was there. More a fancy marble skatepark than a memorial.
The gold standard for war memorials is Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a black granite gash in the earth with the names of the 58,000 American military who died in that brutal, grinding war.
Should we try to do something similar for the COVID million, victims of another conflict that divided our country? Hard to imagine. Maybe there is an artist or architect who can put the plague years into meaningful shape and mold public perceptions as Maya Lin did.
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