Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Maya Lin's design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. was not without its critics. Ross Perot called it "something for New York intellectuals." The National Review called it "Orwellian glop." And Tom Wolfe and Phyllis Schlafly called it "a tribute to Jane Fonda."

But the fiercest of the protesters was a veteran named Tom Carhart, the recipient of two Purple Hearts, who believed that only a veteran could design a proper memorial. (Carhart himself had entered the competition -- after visiting the library and checking out a book called "Anyone Can Sculpt.") He later referred to Lin's wall as an "open urinal," and allegedly suggested adding an inscription: "Designed by a gook."

[Carhart may have mistaken Lin for a sixties radical. "I grew up in a college town in the middle of Appalachia," she later explained, "so I'm still wearing Frye boots, and wearing my hair really long, and everyone's thinking I'm some sixties hippie... I'm not cutting my hair because I'm a good Chinese daughter. I'm wearing Frye boots because I'm a fashion disaster. And they connected me with anti-war and sixties radicals."]

[Lin first experienced racial prejudice in Denmark: people thought she was an Eskimo.]

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