Saturday, July 5, 2008

My Farewell to America~

Day 43 Washington DC, July 5th~

My mother was born on the 4th of July. When she was a little girl they had a rule in her family that no one was to tell Marie the fireworks were not for her. Last night as the fireworks lit up the sky over the capital of our nation I thought of that an
d for a moment it felt like they were for us. For Jimmy and I, as we leave for another country where the 4th of July is just another day.

When we went to the national art museum and the national portrait museum I thought, and said aloud, as I always do when I am in a Smithsonian National Museum, “This painting is mine. I own it.” Jimmy laughed but it’s true. All the art and historical artifacts in the national museums and archives are mine. They are yours too. We own them because we are citizens of this nation and they are national treasures. If you have never been to Washington DC this alone is reason enough to come. The feeling you have when you walk in to a National Museum and walk right past the front desk without paying a dime is very special. Even the lockers they make you put your big bags in cost a quarter to rent, but when you come back and put the key back in, it gives you your quarter back. It’s free because we own it already. We pay for it with our taxes, we pay for it when serve in the military, we pay for it when we vote. The painting we were looking at belongs to me because I am an American.

This morning Jimmy and I got up, ate breakfast and headed over to the mall to visit the Lincoln Memorial. He didn’t get to see all the things about DC that are interesting or moving but I insisted we not leave DC without his seeing this one thing. It is a gorgeous structure, commanding your attention. The sculpture of Abraham Lincoln is huge and imposing. He sits in silent meditation and I am always deeply moved by this image of the president I most respect in our nation’s history. The words carved on the walls of the memorial are powerful reminders of a president who was torn apart by the war he felt he had no choice other than to lead his nation into. Abraham Lincoln knew that war had to come. He knew that the only way to avert it was to deny the freedom and equality our nation stood for. He chose to step forward and hold true to those values. He worked hard not to judge and to simply walk a true path toward what he prayed daily would be a time of peace and healing for a nation made whole by the sacrifices of men who fought and died for those values.

As we leave America today I feel a deep sadness because we have strayed so far from the nation we once were. The president who sits in the Oval today is not a man who leads us in this war nor do I imagine he weeps for the young men who die on either side of it. Still, those values live in this nation. I know that is true because at 8:30 in the morning amidst the debris of yesterdays celebrations, around barricades, through the drizzling rain, hundreds of people walked the steps with Jimmy and I to the top of the memorial to gaze at the strong visage of the man who sacrificed all so that we could live in the warm sunshine of freedom and equality.

Think. Speak. Act. Vote.

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