(NOTE: yeah, not “in sequence”, but wanted to capture this while it is fresh in mind… also, some photos are from an earlier visit. For more photos, check out “pages” 2012/10/14 – Washington/DC: The Mall and 2012/10/14 – Washington/DC: ML King)
Our nation’s capitol, hot and muggy in Summer offers natural air-conditioning in Autumn (no wisecracks about politician-generated hot air, please). Overhead, gray clouds provide cool (and sometimes, overmoistened) air, and even blue, sunny skies are comfortable. Perfect walking weather.
How wonderful ANY day which begins with dawn’s early light silhouetting tall Washington Monument’s simple design,
and, across a long, reflecting, pool, Lincoln Memorial’s gut-wrenching “Gettysburg Address” and, considering the magnitude of our current political divide, make an almost contemporary political assessment in a form of his second inaugural address. Both suggest moments when an experiment in “democracy” had yet to prove its mettle.
How touched is a heart to watch crowds trace names on the wall at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial; or observe gray-haired, old men, bearing their “personal” insignia, search for a comrade’s name.
Close by, as crowds mill about, another old man describes why military figures at the Korean Veterans Memorial are deployed across a wide area.
A college-aged bicyclist leads two visitors to District of Columbia’s World War I memorial: a temple vaguely imitative of the Jefferson Memorial visible across the Tidal Pool. Crowds wander and photograph World War II fountains.
A relatively new Martin Luther King, Junior Memorial brings ambivalence: an image of the man bears scant resemblance to a figure we knew well half a century ago. More positively, “fractured” tall rocks can readily be imagined as a “mountaintop” awaiting cohesion… and a wall of quotations offers a reminder of have far we’ve traveled and how much distance continues to lie ahead.
Further along, a jaunty Franklin Delano Roosevelt counterpoints a sculpture of Depression “bread lines”.
Finally, an exquisitely located, classical Greek inspired temple holds an over-sized Thomas Jefferson: surrounded with fragments of political judgment, while below, artifacts place him fully within the context of his time.
(Men and women of good faith may disagree how much respect any [or, even, all] these icons deserve, but, to pretend that their lives have not been important “threads” in a tapestry of our nation’s history would indeed be folly.)
The following day, hesitantly head over to DC’s Holocaust Museum. Sit on a bench outside, and a 60-ish woman comes over as a few drops of rain fall. She mentions having considered an umbrella at her hotel, and launches quickly into a question about whether I’m waiting for the museum to open.
Share my concerns (Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam was very painful emotional experience), and, with her New York City accent, am not completely surprised when she mentions having visited this museum multiple times. (DON’T tell her of captured German films watched during the 1950s while stationed in Heidelberg… films of such inhumane brutality that to be reminded of them is a threat).
She mentions next door’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing tour, so go check out how our money is created. Their “money factory: tour is short, but quite informative (we get to see an unusual event: a paper jam crumbles enough bills to buy a house).
Afterward, return and enter Holocaust Museum. Exhibits start on a top floor and work their way down. Countenance the rise of Nazi-ism, but, one floor down, concentration camp photos set my stomach reeling and head for an exit.
Am unsure from where the thought emerged, but suddenly wonder why “The Bitch of Buchenwald” is absent from these displays. A query at their Information Desk routes me up to their Research Department, where, indeed, her sordid exploits are deemed too gross to include. Am not sure what it is about their response, but suddenly find all self-control gone, and a tall, young man comes out from behind their counter and puts his arms around me until my sobbing subsides.
Ironically, within an hour, standing joyous inches from three VerMeers in our National Gallery of Arts, reflect that Holland can offer me such a spectrum of emotional responses.