I’m in Washington, DC, for the Concerned Educators Against Forced Unionism conference. Let’s skip that for now, and talk about DC itself.
On approach to Reagan International Airport, the first DC landmark you can see is the Washington Monument. From the air it seems so small, so sharp, so fragile. But you know instantly what you’re looking at. From there it’s no difficulty at all making out the Capitol. Pictures (which I’ll post) can’t convey how strong and solid it looks. The Rotunda, and the Dome, are huge. Even from the air the Capitol is impressive.
I had most of the day to myself today, and I decided to spend it visiting those sites that I haven’t been to before. So I didn’t go to the Air and Space Museum, or to the Natural History Museum, or to the Washington Monument, or to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, or to the World War II Memorial, or to the Post Office Tower (the best views of DC). Instead, I went to Capitol Hill.
There are plenty of magnolia trees here, telling me this is the South. It’s also muggy as heck, telling me it’s the East. It almost feels like an armed camp here, as I’ve never seen so many police—some armed with shotguns or automatic rifles—in my life. And they’re everywhere. Damned September 11th.
I’d never been to the Capitol. Now, I didn’t get to go inside or anything, but walking around it was impressive. I must have taken a dozen pictures of that building. Pictures cannot do it justice, though; you have to experience it live.
From there I walked down the Mall, past the preparations for the National Symphony’s 4th of July Concert and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, to near the Washington Monument, then bore left. I went to the Jefferson Memorial, about which I’ll write more in a different post. I loved the sign at the entrance: Quiet, Respect Please. Enter the Memorial to see a 15’ statue of Jefferson, and important quotes of his on the walls. I felt his importance there. One thing I didn’t know was that as you stand on the front steps of the Memorial, you have a direct view of the White House in the distance, with the Washington Monument just to the right about halfway there. It’s appropriate.
From there I walked to the Archives to meet a friend for lunch. Rich was one of my roommates at West Point, my best friend while there, is still on active duty, and has served a tour in Iraq. We caught up a little bit. It was so good to see him.
Had I known that the start time for my conference had been postponed, I’d have gone inside the Archives to see the Constitution. I read it each year just to restore my faith in our republican form of government, but seeing the original would have been special. I regret not seeing it, but knowing it’s there will have to be good enough--until next time.
From there I walked past the Supreme Court building, only to learn that the “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” case had just been decided. I’m preparing a separate post on that topic. I passed the Library of Congress on my way back to the hotel. That was the end of the sightseeing portion of the day.
All the buildings here, it seems, are made of either granite or marble—not just the old ones, but the new ones, too. There’s something permanent about marble and granite, and somehow that gave me a feeling that our Republic will endure. Yet, I know what goes on here. I know about the evil that occurs in this city, the corruption, the greed, the conflicts that imperil the Republic. But when I’m here, walking amongst the very monoliths of our government--and they are huge--I still feel the ideal. These buildings meant something once, and I want to believe they still do. Does that make me a dreamer, or a fool? Often there’s a very thin line between the two.
I wonder if our national leaders still feel the awe, the grandeur, these buildings are meant to convey about our government. Do they sense the wonder anymore, or does political power eradicate the last traces of such dreams? Do they experience any cognitive dissonance at all? Perhaps they should spend some time staring into the Reflecting Pool at the base of Capitol Hill and ask themselves—why, truly, are they here?