Sorry to say, but our summer vacation to historical sites has been a complete bust. We drove our Avis rental car to West Point, where we were eager to see statues and memorials of some of the great characters in the AMC miniseries “Turn.” We must have hiked around that place for two hours trying to locate the statue of Benedict Arnold. In the whole place . . . nothing! I realize he was a notorious traitor, but still, his attempt to sell out the American Revolution is a signature moment in our history. People should be able to see this infamous general, perhaps mounted on a horse or wielding a sword against his former soldiers and fellow officers.
I finally tracked down the curator, and he seemed nonplussed by my search. “There’s no statute of a scoundrel like Arnold,” he told me. “You put a man’s sculpted image up high on a pedestal, it signifies honor and adulation.” He eyed me with trepidation, then added: “Regular folks get that.”
“But it’s history,” I insisted. “Part of our national story.” He turned away with a humph.
Well, okay. So it took us a while to motor over to the legendary Sing Sing Prison, which is still operating here in 2017. I’d once written a radio script on Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, and was dying to see the memorial statue illustrating this scandal-ridden couple who sold United States atomic secrets to the Russians during the Cold War. “There’s got to be a statue of THEM,” I told my wife as we traipsed around the place, camera in hand. “I mean, a husband and wife getting the electric chair on the same night? That’s history of the most dramatic sort.”
To my surprise, again there was absolutely nothing marking their impact on American foreign policy. No statue, no larger-than-life color paintings. I did find a nondescript pamphlet telling how Judge Kaufman condemned them to death while observing that their betrayal and cooperation with the KGB hastened the Communist aggression in Korea and likely caused the deaths of 50,000 people. But no statue.
So like I say, we’re oh for two. We’ve got to get back to L.A. by Tuesday but I definitely want to get to Ground Zero tomorrow and take some pictures of the Osama bin Laden statue there . . .