After the parades are over and the last fireworks show has ended, we wake up July 5th to the realization that we must love our country for the next 364 days as much as we did yesterday. One way to make sure we do this is to visit our capitol. It never fails to inspire me to be a better American. I can’t go there today but I can revisit it in my memory.
To say it reeks with history is a shabby attempt to capture the essence. Simply to stand, though, before the east front of the building where Abraham Lincoln delivered his second inaugural address and note the spot where John Wilkes Booth stood watching him must cause a trembling in the heart of any patriot.
In a few short days the latter would commit one of the most heinous acts in our country’s history, and, after a short walk, we can stand in the place where they carried the President from Ford’s Theater after Booth’s act to the small room where Abraham Lincoln would die.
And speaking of cowardly deeds, a new building stands on the site of the National Hotel, where Booth resided. It is now a museum dedicated to those who report the news, aptly named “The Nuseum.” There, one can stand before the remains of the tower that stood atop one of the World Trade Center buildings that fell on that awful day in 2001. Or, we can see an actual copy of a newspaper on the days of major events of the world and our country. Visitors should go early for it takes at least a day to appreciate the wonders of this place.
To understand more completely why it is important to live in a free country, we must add the Holocaust Museum to a visit to Washington. One leaves it with a feeling that our species is capable of great horrors and these tendencies must be restrained by understanding and loving all peoples.
A short train or bus ride takes one to Arlington Cemetery, a place of somber and quietude graced by the monumental sculpture depicting the raising of the American Flag at Iwo Jima. Veterans from Audie Murphy to John Kennedy rest there.
I’ve always had a bit of mixed feelings about the Vietnam Memorial. Unlike the glorifying monuments to veterans of other wars, it seems something of a “Wailing Wall.” Still, as you walk down the slope toward the center of that sculpture, with 58,286 names carved into the black granite rising above you, it evokes the sense of descending into the hell that was that war. It is a feeling vast sadness, especially for a veteran of that war. It is an experience that should fill anyone with the knowledge that we must avoid such adventures if at all possible, especially when those adventures are promoted by those who have never been to war.
This morning’s “mind-visit” back to our wonderful capitol city inspires me to be a little more tolerant today, a little more prone to honor The Beatitudes, a little more convinced to support our government, and a much more determined to support only those office seekers that have a glorifying vision for our people and respect for our laws for, to quote Proverbs 29:18 (KJV), “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.”
“Rich fellas come up an' they die, an' their kids ain't no good an' they die out. But we keep a'comin'. We're the people that live. They can't wipe us out; they can't lick us. We'll go on forever, Pa, 'cause we're the people.” – John Steinbeck, “The Grapes of Wrath.”