I usually walk in a foreign city without destination in mind and view the sights freely. On one of these tours in Switzerland I chanced to cross a sign directing me to the Lion of Lucerne and a postcard with an image of the monument and this quote on the back.
“saddest and most moving piece of rock in the world”
Being nearby the sculpture, I decided to have a look. After seeing it, I know Twain’s statement contained no exaggeration. The Lion symbolizes the loss of the Swiss guards charged with defending the Royals during The Terror of the French Revolution. When the angry mob approached the castle, the sentinels were ordered by superiors to surrender their weapons as a gesture of goodwill to the crowd. They were then attacked and fought outnumbered and unarmed. The majority of them were slain without mercy.
Santa Cruz has a memorial: “Collateral Damage: A Reality of War,” dedicated to the innocent victims in all wars. The title seems to mock the euphemism that connotes those who were sacrificed to whatever cause. It reminds us that mere circumstance, not virtue, distinguishes us from these casualties of war.
Both of these pieces display tragic human misery. But the victims honored in Santa Cruz are anonymous, comparable to the people unknown to us that we pass in our daily lives, they receive little if any recognition. We would be wise to remember we are equally nameless in the eyes of those beyond our acquaintance.
Both sculptures are controversial. Monuments, like other art forms, have their origin in the mind. They can depict actual events. And as with any description, they can be flawed and can never contain all the facts. These works are not merely subjective they convey objective knowledge representing something real enough to be criticized. The complex elements of art are combined the way someone makes a meal. There’s a cook, the cooking and the soup or in this case the thinker, the thought, and the conclusion produced. If we fault any aspects of the creation we may still value others.
Collateral Damage is universal in not being limited to a specific event of war. It symbolizes every occurrence of similar harm put upon innocent bystanders. In the vastness of the subject we might miss the point. As the word blue defines all shades we may forget the magnitude of the category when looking at one spot of color.
We have a unique piece of art in Santa Cruz. Why not create more signs directing visitors to its location in addition to various postcards depicting Collateral Damage? All who see value in this art should consider inviting guests to visit the sculpture. Let’s talk about how it impacts us. When going downtown, think about bringing a blossom and laying it at the foot of the statue in memory of all who have perished or carry the scars of war. Consider those who have yet to suffer this fate.
Santa Cruz’s remarkable sculpture, as with the Dying Lion of Lucerne, should be seen and it deserves to be treated with equal regard.