The Vietnam War memorial, a gash of polished black marble cut into the lawns of the Mall, with the names of all of the dead engraved upon it, is a profoundly powerful public sculpture. Like all the other memorials and monuments dotted about the Mall, it is also a unifier.  Whilst we were there, a group of US soldiers were visiting. They first had their photograph taken at the Lincoln Memorial, a sight that sparked spontaneous applause from the American tourists up there, and then they came to gaze, in huddled groups, at the wall (picture). It’s impossible not to gaze, really (though not related, there are two Westlakes on the wall: Clair Lloyd Westlake Jr. (born 04.03.47, died 01.01.69) and William Arnold Westlake (born 02.03.48, died 26.09.67)). That fierce pride and sense of patriotism that led the crowd to cheer spontaneously is something we Europeans don’t have. Patriotism and militaristic fervour got themselves bad names at the nation state level, of course, and we don’t salute a/the flag in the morning. But European flags fly much more these days than they did, say, twenty years ago. There will hopefully never be a European equivalent of the Vietnam War, but those who dismiss the prospect of European Union out of hand would do well to study the mess that was early American history. (Whilst on the theme of cultural unifiers, the Star-Spangled Banner was only adopted as the American National Anthem in 1931.)