I just love it.
And I always have no matter who was president or what was before Congress or who got caught cheating, lying, stealing.
I don’t love it for the current mess. I love it for what it used to be and the people who sought freedom and knew their sacrifices were necessary to establish it for generations. I love the ideals, the principles, the goals of a fledgling nation held together by a common thread of “leave us the heck alone, King George” and also, “you’re my brother and I’ll die fighting by your side.”
Washington, D.C. is also extra special to me because I’ve been several times and had the opportunity to share it with loved ones at different stages of our lives. It’s woven into my patriotism and my determination to raise our girls to love all of humanity (even those they disagree with) and to fight injustice wherever and whenever it pops up in their lives. Like one of our heroes famously said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” (Preach, MLK. Preach). We’re certain they didn’t get it this time. They danced between columns and oohed and ahhed over powerful views of a city that was on their Mommy’s list of places to take them. They hopped that Metro with us and stuffed pizza in their faces and watched ducks swim in the reflecting pool but they didn’t get it. Our prayer is that looking back some day they will and that as the years go by, they’ll have other opportunities to visit our nation’s capital and something will click.
The Archives are set up differently now. You don’t wait in line and a guard doesn’t repeat, “keep moving, keep moving, keep moving” in that dry, monotone voice they always use. Now they let a group in to the rotunda every twenty minutes and guests just meander around and see what they want. This is my third time to gaze down at the Declaration and the Constitution. The names at the bottom are really faded now. We squinted so we could make out John Hancock in his bold, “take that, Britain” handwriting. We marveled at the words that echo across centuries down to us. I’m so glad someone thought to preserve and protect these documents and that in my lifetime, I’ve been only a thick-piece of glass away from them.
Danny took the girls out to the monuments a couple evenings on his own while I was back in Kansas saying goodbye to my family’s patriarch and the proudest American I’ve ever known. When I got back I was emotionally raw and cried at the drop of a hat so probably walking amidst memorials set up to honor the fallen and the founding was not the best move on my part. Or maybe it was just what I needed. Regardless, it happened.
I’d not yet experienced the WWII Memorial and it was just as fantastic as I knew it would be. WWII is my favorite war. I know, I know—that’s a weird statement but I just mean that it’s a war where I actually understand why we fought and liberation came to millions because of our brave Greatest Generation and also I’ve been a student of the Holocaust my entire life. The plight of the Jewish people (and mentally disabled, Christians, Polish, homosexuals, you name it, anyone who didn’t fit Hitler’s A-list) broke me years ago when I first read Anne Frank’s diary. I followed it up quickly with “The Hiding Place” and have never been the same. We didn’t take our daughters to the Holocaust Museum this time for obvious reasons but I had a moment in the center of the WWII Memorial surrounded by other Americans, placing wreaths, taking pictures, giving hugs, staring silently into space. And while there I thanked God again for the end of the Holocaust and prayed that we’d never allow it to happen again. We even had the chance to observe a few WWII vets (some in wheelchairs, all wearing matching baseball caps) honored at the memorial. They’re leaving us quickly so when you see one, I don’t care if he’s a total stranger, you get yourself over there and say thank you.
We took in all the major memorials in one day which isn’t a good idea and I don’t recommend it. We didn’t get to absorb very much before the tick-tock of Danny’s watch reminded us we had to move on or we’d lose sunlight. I hate that. It’s just that the timing of this particular city came when our family paused to mourn so tourist-playing days were scarce.
We sat to the side of the steps of Lincoln’s Memorial swinging our legs off the edge watching the sun shimmer on the pool and over to the WWII circle and past it to Washington. We had a little snack and talked about Abraham Lincoln and how one man’s determination to hold the country together resulted in millions knowing freedom in our country. We all make a difference somehow even if we aren’t Honest Abe. Sitting there I kept thinking about great men and great monuments and how really the people whose lives we’ve positively affected are the greatest monuments to a life. We want to live well? Then we have to give well and serve well and act well. Our monuments won’t be in marble most likely but I’ve now walked through many, many cemeteries and those stones don’t last, friends. They don’t. But a life changed ripples through time and the effect is impossible to calculate.