I was captivated on a recent visit to Rosie the Riveter WWII/Home Front National Historic Park, picturesquely perched on the shores of Richmond's Marina Bay. There were sailboats bobbing in the distance, trees bending in the breeze, birds soaring and children playing. It was a little slice of serenity.
Most striking was how poignantly the park's monuments and historical markers provide a window into one of history's most pivotal times, when American needs, world events and human cultures collided.
The story of Richmond's part in the war effort -- especially the vital role women played in building Navy ships -- is embedded in concrete, engraved in metal and captured in photographs.
What knucklehead wouldn't appreciate that?
The question arises because dozens of Richmond residents, who misunderstood something I wrote last week, are fairly certain I'm that knucklehead. They deluged my email inbox with sentiments usually reserved for public enemies and politicians.
Here's what happened: In mocking the federal government's ludicrous decision to cut parks funding as part of the sequester mandate, I sarcastically -- I cannot emphasize the sarcastic part enough -- wrote that if officials wanted to find really big savings they should take a hard look at Rosie the Riveter's lavish digs. Again, to be clear, I was kidding.
Councilman Tom Butt, who read past the irony, spearheaded the attack with an email blast to constituents calling me a "curmudgeon-in-chief" for bashing the Richmond landmark.
That's nonsense, of course. There are much higher-ranking curmudgeons on our staff.
One angry reader spanked me with one of his relatives: "What the H-- is wrong with you? My aunt came from a Montana farm straight into training as a welder during WWII. ... Do you have an issue with her significant contribution to our local history?"
I have no trouble with anyone's relatives, except some of my own.
Another: "Rosie the Riveter does not need to be bashed by you. Don't newspapers deal in facts anymore? No wonder the CCT can't maintain its readership."
Judging by the firestorm I set off, I'd say readership is fairly strong.
A dozen readers demanded retractions. Several insisted I learn to fact-check. I was described as rude, ignorant, unprofessional and loudmouthed, which was more than I hoped for. I was just trying to be sarcastic.
There's a lesson to be learned. Be careful with literary devices. Hyperbole, irony and sarcasm can have painful consequences.
Here's another lesson: Rosie's park is a gem. A paved bike path wanders past eight interpretive markers that chronicle the World War II home front. The Rosie the Riveter memorial is a stylized beauty.
"It's an abstraction of a ship," said 91-year-old Park Ranger Betty Reid Soskin. "It's the length of a Victory ship -- 403 feet, I think. You have the keel the way it was built, upside-down, at the beginning. Then you have the cargo hold and the smokestack. The bow is at the far end."
The sidewalk connecting the photo-laden sections is imprinted with workers' reflections. One example: "It was hard to convince your lead man that you could do the work. When he assigned jobs, I used to follow him around and say, 'I could do that. I could do that.' He got sick of me and said, 'OK, do it.' Of course, I could do it."
What kind of knucklehead wouldn't appreciate that?
Contact Tom Barnidge at firstname.lastname@example.org.