This morning, I awoke determined to spend the day sight-seeing.
I left my house to discover a beautiful, only slightly too-warm day. For once, it wasn't very humid and there was a lovely breeze. I took off for the subway station near the Capitol and instead decided to walk the mile or so down the National Mall to the Washington Monument. On the way, I walked through this festival going on here. It's called "Folklife" and is put on by the Smithsonian. They pick a state (this year it's Virginia) and a country (Ireland) and showcase them. I didn't really stop at any of the booths, but I'll check it out next week. My roomies and I have plans to camp out all day Wednesday to get a good vantage point for viewing the fireworks, and the festival will be there.
Eventually, I got to the Washington Monument. On the way, I walked through the Smithsonian sculpture garden and contemplated going into the National Archives, but decided to save that for next week.
I coudln't go up into the monument because I didn't have a ticket (they're free, but you have to get there early in the day), so I kept walking and hit the World War II and Vietnam Memorials on the way. At the Vietnam Memorial, I passed a father, surrounded by his young children (one sitting on his knee), explaining the wall to them in Spanish. It was such a cute family scene and it was one of many moments throughout the day that reminded me that the diversity of this nation is one of the things we're supposed to be fighting to protect, but we have all this divisive stuff going on right now.
I was also frustrated to look at that wall and think that in 30 years, someone may be building a memorial to commemorate the lives of everyone in my generation who died in the War on Terror. It's scary to think of it that way, but it's certainly a differnet perspective thinking of those deaths after seeing that.
Next, I stopped by the Lincoln Memorial and listened to the "Ranger Talk," all about Lincoln. The crowd visiting the memorial was one of the most diverse groups I've ever been in. There were Midwestern grandmas, Indian women (in Saris), Sikhs, Muslims, little blonde girls wearing red, white and blue.... and it seemed like everyone I passed was speaking a different language. This nation should be a place where all people feel safe practicing their religion, speaking their language, keeping their cultures alive... but with all the debate over immigration, the War on Terror, etc. there aren't enough people talking about protecting the diversity of the United States. It's what makes this a great nation. I loved being in this building, one of the most recognizeable in the nation and the world, and seeing all those different people standing there staring up at the Gettysburg address and wondering what the words meant to them. I confess to having gotten a little teary. I have never been one to describe myself as "patriotic" (except while watching the Olympics), because of the connotations of the word in recent years, but one thing I do love about America is the diversity and freedom it's supposed to stand for. It makes me so angy to think about what certain foreign policies are doing to the country, what people around the world think of America because of those policies.
Anyway... I headed for the White House next, and of course couldn't get very close, but it really is pretty. I'm still working on getting to go on a tour. Here's hoping that actually happens.
I think next week will be the time for the National Archive and the Natural History museum.
After sightseeing, I took the subway to the Trader Joe's for some good produce and bought way too much. On the way home, I had to carry very heavy bags to and from two subway stations and as a result, my back/shoulders and feet hurt so bad that I'm walking like a little old lady today. It'll be nice to go to work and be forced to sit for 8 hours!
I can't wait for Wednesday. I think I've said before that while I know the crowds on the Fourth of July will be insane, I think it's kind of like Times Square on New Year's. You've gotta do it once.