WASHINGTON, D.C. - The public parts of this city have a cruddy feel to them. Jersey barriers and temporary wooden picket fences litter the Mall that stretches two miles from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial. Standing at one end, with the Great Emancipator behind you, the once glorious vista seems cluttered and broken. But it's not the temporary structures that most jar the eye. Rather, it's something new and permanent: the World War II Memorial.
It goes on, choc-a-bloc full of stuff: Bronze laurel wreaths, flags and fountains are seemingly everywhere. In the center are a series of bas-relief plaques - half relating to the Pacific War, half to the European - that are sort of a Stations of the Cross for the times, chronologically depicting scenes at home and abroad. Gold stars at one end echo the Gold Stars displayed by mothers who lost over 400,000 children. Scattered around the site - and it's vast, taking up over seven acres - are various inscriptions, almost all of which sound the same note: "from certain defeat to incredible victory," "a great victory has been won," "the great crusade," "the price of freedom."