“Enjoy” might not be the right word for how I appreciate military museums. But I’m drawn to them. Sometimes with vigorous amusement. Especially when they have dioramas. As Cairo’s does.
Every conflict of any country seems to be represented in a good war museum, and yet very few have a feeling of, “Yeah, we got our asses handed to us on that one but we gave it a go” or “Economically, it just made sense, even though we had no business being there.” History may be tweeted by the victor, but it’s codified by established institutions, who quickly discard any trends of objectivity.
In Tehran, the former U.S. Embassy is officially labeled the “Den of Espionage.” Look at almost any Soviet war memorial and you’ll see indefatigable tenacity. You’d think the Nazis would’ve been repelled at the Ukrainian border. A friend and I were recently discussing the increasingly liberal use of the word martyr. Southern Sudan’s warrior liberator cum vice president John Garang is often referred to as a martyr, even though he died in a completely unrelated plane crash (well, depending on who you ask).
Parks and museums around the world feature tanks and weaponry and kids always seem to be leaping up on them and flashing a smile and a peace sign for the camera, such as above.
Most war museums seem to simultaneously shape an identity of the underdog victim, and yet he’s also pulling up his t-shirt and winking at the ladies as he shows off his bulging bicep. But you can’t have your cake and eat it too (I’m sure there’s a more punny version of that phrase that could’ve been slipped in). At some point David either becomes Goliath or keeps getting whooped. But you can’t always be David. You have to let the other kids play too.
And it doesn’t make sense to me to mix a somber memorial with a vitriolic monument to smiting the enemy. You can’t pee on your enemy’s grave while eulogizing at the memorial of your own fallen and expect to be taken seriously.
At least I can’t. But then I’m a liberal. And, incidentally, I’m currently dressed as a transvestite clown as I write this.