Dates of Visit: September 28-30, 2019
Carla and her sister have been planning a trip to the South for about half a year now. We started in Washington, DC, and as of this writing we have been down to Williamsburg, the Outer Banks, Wilmington, North Carolina. Later we’ll hit Charleston, SC; Savannah, GA, then turn home up to the Smoky Mountains.
Carla and I flew in to Washington on Saturday September 28 and met Linda at her high school / college friend’s home near Bethesda. E and L were so nice to share their home with strangers. On Sunday Linda went off with E. while Carla and I went to the Washington Mall. We spent hours in the Holocaust Museum traveling through time from the 1930s up to the end of WWII. I liken it to the 9/11 memorial in NYC where I became overwhelmed early on and thought “how can it get worse?” but then you move to the next exhibit and of course it gets much, much worse. The most poignant exhibit was a huge display of shoes which were taken from the murdered Jews in the death camps. Those shoes stand in mute witness to the terror of the Nazis and their enablers.
I just can’t comprehend how people can do this to other people; but we have seen it happen again and again. My take away was this can happen when a leader of a country tells big lies over and over again and intimidates his enemies and the press. Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbles is “credited” with saying
“Make the lie big, keep it simple, keep saying it and eventually they will believe it”
“It would not be impossible to prove with sufficient repetition and a psychological understanding of the people concerned that a square is in fact a circle.”
And the bigger the pulpit, the easier it is to hammer home the lies. Eventually, the leader becomes the State. And once people equate the two, allegiance belongs to the leader and horrible, horrible, indescribably things can happen.
We left shaken and wandered the National Mall for a while. The sun was shining just right on the National Capitol. I really lucked out on the lighting; this is my favorite picture of the trip so far.
The Washington Monument towers above everything within a couple of miles.
We boarded the Metro to go back to E and L’s house. The stop we used in Bethesda is deep underground.
Slavery: America’s Original Sin.
Sunday Linda joined Carla and me as we went back to the National Mall. We started at the African American museum. The building itself is striking – a large dark brown structure which stands out against all the white buildings on the Mall. There are two parts to the museum: a history that spreads over three floors and then a series of cultural displays. We only visited the historical exhibits. The exhibit starts with the beginning of slavery in America on the 3rd floor basement; as you work your way up back to the light at ground level you pass through the Civil War, Reconstruction and the Civil Rights movement. One of the first quotes from the lowest level (I should have gotten the exact wording) was from a letter a man was writing. He said that while at first it’s hard to get your head around the immorality of slavery, there is SO much money in it. The big lie that blacks are less than human was told over and over again and it became part of the culture. As the day before I was struck anew by man’s Ability to rationalize inhumanity.
We came to Washington DC with my mom and the kids in the mid 90’s so there are many new monuments we hadn’t seen yet. First on our list was the WWII monument. It is done in – what I consider – a classical style. It is so big it is hard to do it justice in one picture. My dad was an infantryman in that war and my mom was a woman Marine. My dad never talked about it and died years before the monument was built but I know he would have appreciated it.
The Vietnam War wall is just so beautiful and powerful. We saw it back 20+ years ago and I couldn’t bring myself to take a picture of it with all those names of the American casualties. Nearby is a newer powerful – monument of three American soldiers.
Later we came upon the Korean War memorial; it took my breath away. We entered from the back and came upon a statue of an American infantryman who is looking back and has his hand out as if to say “Stop”. Then you look ahead and see a squad of men clad in ponchos working their way through a field. The expressions on their faces was watchfulness tinged with fatigue.
Of course we walked up the stairs of the grand Lincoln Memorial.
The view of the Washington Monument at the opposite end of the reflecting pool is beautiful.
It was getting late in the day as we made our way to the Martin Luther King memorial; like the Korean War memorial it was not here in the 1990’s – at least we didn’t see it. I love his image emerging from this huge block of stone – it is an image of power. Like the statue, Reverend King’s work is not finished today.
We finished our monument tour by visiting the FDR display along the Tidal Basin. It’s an interesting counterpoint to the Lincoln and Washington monuments in that the statues are more life size. And we see more than the president.
First is a line of men looking for work during the Great Depression.
I loved the image of a man listening to one of FDR’s fireside chats.
Finally at the back of the site is the President.
So much of what we saw in Washington DC was about America’s – and the world’s – difficult times; but I suppose we don’t really build monuments to the happy times. With all that is going on in our country today I hope we can rally against the big lie and keep focused on the truth. Martin Luther King told us “the arc of moral history is long but it bends toward justice.” I hope that is true but it won’t happen without some effort.
Note on the post: I apologize for the formatting; somehow most of it picked up the font and type size for the picture captions. A good craftsman doesn’t complain about his tools; but I must say the process of using LightRoom to edit the photos and save them in a way for WordPress to be able to pick them up is a challenge. Maybe I’ll get better as the trip goes on.