The battlefield is peppered with memorials commemorating soldiers, divisions of infantry, and important events. Statues stand in heroic poses -- charging, standing ready, or gazing at the terrain -- already contributing to a narrative of glory and redemption. The serenity of the park belies the political wrangling that determines what is to be memorialized, how, and where. There is much talk of the "presentation" of history, the official master narrative versus the smaller and quieter individual narratives of the war.
In the afternoon conversation with Peter and his colleague Kent Gramm, a question arises: Is redemption, the quest for transcendence, a typically American impulse that underlies the memorialization of catastrophe? This leads to a discussion of how history is often beautified to facilitate understanding and transcendence. History's eventual form is mythology, and myths are notoriously difficult to revise once they have acquired an authoritative, definitive patina.
There is a need to articulate pain, to speak it, to tell its story, as a way of making sense of inchoate tragedy. At a wake for a loved one, the bereaved are compelled to tell the story of the death to visitor after visitor in a key part of the grieving process. Then the grieving ends, becomes memory, and the story starts its slow hardening into myth. Peter's project seems to be to slow down the process to speckle, streak, and texture the narrative before it sets. He understands that it might already be too late, and that his lone voice might be just that -- an echo across a quiet field whose horrors have already been laid to reluctant rest.