Today I went for a tour of the General Douglass MacArthur Memorial Museum. My family and I had just arrived in the Norfolk area the day before and I was not as hot to go shopping at the MacArthur Mall as my mom, sister, and grandmother.
My grandad, dad and I first watched an old black and white documentary that ran through Douglass MacArthur’s life from beginning to end. The video looked like it had been compiled in the 70’s and looked like the worst stereotype of a military propaganda film. I knew from previous education on the end of the Korean War that General MacArthur became a dangerous, ego-centric threat to world stability, and that, if not for President Truman’s relative restraint, MacArthur would have delighted in the use of nuclear weapons to wipe out China. In the end Truman decided to fire MacArthur after repetitive challenges to executive authority and MacArthur’s choice to deliberately disobey Truman.
But the documentary skirted around the damaging facts like a GOP presidential candidate trying to avoid releasing his tax returns. In the museum, the only facts that are released are the ones that paint MacArthur in the brightest possible light (in some cases literally). He is the hero of this museum, and no opinions of his hubris or his disregard for human life are accepted.
At the end of the tour there were quotes by MacArthur in which he said that he would have preferred to have worked for peace rather than for war. His decisions led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people over the course of his life. His actions spoke much louder than his words.
As we left the museum; I asked my dad, “How can we consider a man who killed people for a living as a great man?”
His response: “I don’t think we can.”
We can learn a lot from Douglass MacArthur. We can learn that peace is a harder approach to getting what you want than violence. We can learn that peace can be much more unpopular than war and we can learn that some of the greatest individual glory can come from war.
But we can learn from the hundreds of thousands of un-named victims of war that ease, popularity and glory are never worth the price.