Since Donald J. Trump is now president and he likes to think big and wants to think big, I think it is time to start dusting off some old project ideas of mine just to bounce around on the web first. I think megalomania is a good thing. It is merely bringing to fruition the saying “think outside the box.” We live in such a shrunken world that we have made it our pastime and indeed our presumption to carp upon every word that comes out of another’s mouth. “As soon as one American opens his mouth he makes another American despise him,” to paraphrase Henry Higgins. We need to think big again and not devote our time to judging people for petty things.
Greece and great Rome are in ruins, and yet from their ruins they spoke to us. By the majesty of just the glimmer of what they once were they inspired us to rebuild. There came Renaissance. There came the Neo Classical. One day Washington DC will be ruins. It happens to every civilization. Every body, even the body politic, decays and dies and is remembered only by its bones.
For all the greatness that America has done, for all that this nation has achieved, we have built very little in stone. Monuments are a book in stone. Monuments are ideology crystalized. But they last longer than the printed word. Through them we speak over the ages. Ancient Rome had 27 libraries, and yet most of the written word has perished, but the greatness of Roman ideas remained in the magnificence of marble.
We have temples in Washington to men, but we do not have them to ideas. We have not written a book in marble and encrypted into it our virtues and ideals.
I propose a Temple of Liberty, of the Corinthian Order, larger than any temple hitherto built, modeled to some extent on the Temple of Venus and Rome, with the grace and grandeur of the Temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens.
The statue in this vaulted temple should be a colossal statue of walking Liberty, as seen on our old coins. Striding in marble, gold gild, brass, silver, painted cap of liberty and perhaps holding a gilded winged Victory. The base of the gigantic statue should carry the inscription:
Forever Conquering and Never Oppressing
Liberty on the March
The temple should become the center of all expressed ideas on liberty, an inspiration for all of what freedom and unity can build. It must become an incarnation of the very concept and duties of liberty.
A striding statue, Liberty moving forward. A giant golden half dome rising from the base, with spikes indicating the sun and its rays as Liberty marches on. Either a winged Victory in the one hand or just the bouquet embraced in the other.
We rebuilt the temple of Athena Parthenos and its cult statue in Nashville– but what does this say about us? Nothing. It is merely a copy. Time and money would be better spent to leave behind a memory of our own contribution to civilization. Imagine striding Liberty in marble and gold.
The pediments, of course, will be occupied by the appropriate statuary in symbolic juxtaposition– the awakening of liberty, the statue of Americana by her side, Prosperity, a cornucopia, etc. Various busts of those responsible for its building, etc, here and there along the sides and, of course, statues to those who prospered liberty in one way or another, both in the past and in the future.
The Pantheon in Rome remains to this day. Built by Hadrian, it carries the inscription of its original builder: “Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, built this in his third consulate.”
Bas reliefs would depict symbolic and past historical events– independence, emancipation, victory. Perhaps a painted vaulted ceiling. Statues. Flags. Emblems. Bronze candelabra along giant columns. Great events of state can be held here. Educational events can be held inside, with set up chair arrangements.
There is no end to the good uses such a three dimensional book to liberty can be put.
Washington DC has many grassy sweeps and promenades devoted to little more than free roaming cats. Some of this space is better used, I think, to writing in stone some of the best achievements of our society– to remind those who come after us what once was and to give them hope that after it is lost they too can achieve it again.
This is our future:
We must choose wisely what to leave behind.