Tuesday, July 29

22 Days Of Vacation

Day 9: National Archives, Washington D.C.

The struggles for American independence took place in every colony, Massachusetts and Virginia are the prime examples, and in places beyond the reach of established institutions of the day. Our nation's capitol is not the birthplace of our country, but it is its heart. Washington D.C. is where the will of the people is exercised, the place where our shared values are most in evidence. From the seats of federal power to the resting places of our honored dead, to visit here is to know that the public owns these monuments and parks, and that the current government exists only by the public's consent. It is hard not to bloviate and swell with patriotic pride when surrounded by expressions of ideals that changed the world.

This is why the National Archives is my number-one place every United States citizen should see. On display are numerous historical documents from four different centuries. The greatest of these define our country and are presented center stage: The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, and The Bill of Rights. There before your eyes are the signatures of John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and all the founding fathers. There is the original ink, the parchment passed through the hands of history, the compromise of differing views, the hotly debated words of We the People. I wish every high school senior was required to see it.

On my second visit, a guard explained that the documents can be mechanically lowered to an underground vault safe from nuclear attack. A woman next to me asked "Why? Are they worth money or something?" I wanted to strangle her. I bit my lip and remembered to uphold our founding principles of equality and freedom of speech, even for the aggravatingly stupid. After all, each of us has the right to opinion and ignorance, no matter how ridiculous it may seem to others.

This sounds cliche and pretentious. But I dare you to come to Washington, tour the memorials, explore the Smithsonian, visit the Capitol rotunda, view a session of Congress, and not puff up a little. Come on. I dare you.

Teasers on this trip: stand tall and look around you


tiff said...

I love DC. LOVE IT. It's gorgeous, and lots of stuff is free, and it's a little bit Utopian, as long as you don't get out into the wrong neighborhoods.

That woman, wondering if the precious documents are WORTH anything...hell yeah, how about your IDENTITY as an American?


Anonymous said...

That was an awesome trip-don't forget being a tour guide for the couple from Scotland?? :)