Remember a couple of years ago when OMNI wanted to have school children decorate Peace Poles and place them on public property? City Attorney Kit Williams went off on how these monuments to peace could be read as opposition to the debacle in Iraq and could create a public forum in our city parks. Don Michaels of the Northwest Arkansas Times editorialized against the idea, so OMNI backed off and dropped their gentle idea to praise peace in our parks.
Well, glorifying war is a different matter altogether. Down at Ray Boudreaux's corporate jetport on South School Street, we have allowed the Ozark Military Museum to set up shop on city property and display military weapons and other totems that sanctify war. The museum just received city approval of a building permit for a 6,000-square foot prefabricated metal addition on public property.
This is being done in the name of economic development and the claim that 10,000 visitors toured the shrine in 2007. That's about five paying customers an hour, if you believe that. We must be competing for tourist dollars with the Air and Military Museum of the Ozarks (AMMO) in Springfield. We are also shaping the views of future generations of children by aggrandizing the weapons of war. Lauding an armored military vehicle, Leonard McCandless, president of the museum’s board of directors, said, “Every little kid would like to have that to drive to Wal-Mart, make their own parking place... It’s a neat little thing. Every kid and big kids, adults, would like to have that to play with.”
I would argue that those military artifacts might make good plowshares, but our city's leaders and editorial writers would think that a dangerous political statement.