Travel Report: Monuments & Graves Washington, DC, USA (Jan 2016)

Boy, these are taking their sweet time aren’t they? This trip was FOUR MONTHS AGO.

As you may or may not know, or care, I have a slight fascination with the political foundations of the United States, the Presidency, the Constitution, and all of that contradictory ideological democracy nonsense. Washington was an obvious stop on this trip.

In Fallout 3, I remember walking around the post-apocalyptic ruins of the city, past all the major landmarks, buildings and so on, and thinking, boy, they’ve really shrunk this stuff down, there’s no way everything’s this close together. 

Turns out that everything is that close together. It’s actually completely ludicrous.

The White House

I set out immediately after breakfast in the hostel, walking about 4 blocks and finding myself outside the White House. You know, the mansion where President Josiah “Jed” Bartlett lived in the TV show The West Wing.

Apparently, the real sitting president Barrack HUSSAIN Obama-care lives there. Also most of the previous ones also lived there, and this time next year Donald Trump will be settling in, no doubt painting it gold.

I could go on about US politics forever. It is an astonishing pantomime of assholes and idiots – but it wasn’t always that way. This was once the domain of Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, all kinds of great scholarly men of towering intellects and abilities, and personality flaws. I still admire the noble ideals of early America, a new land founded in opposition of the rickety aristocracy of old Europe, even if the founders were themselves all rich, elitist, white slave-owning, native-murdering creeps.

I was warned by several people that The White House is smaller than you expect. Perhaps as a result of this warning it actually ended up being larger than I had pictured. Naturally, there are armed guards and dogs patrolling the perimeter, and some protesters, but I was actually surprised by how much you could see, both from the front, and peeking through the black fence across the back garden, of the house in which the Leader of the Free World™ lives, and plots the transformation of America into a Communist State with Islam as the national religion. That was obviously a joke, in case you can’t detect my tone.

Washington Monument

From the back of the White House I walked to the Washington Monument, the bizarre Masonic obelisk that stands at the centre of the National Mall. It is an impressive structure – which I realise is not a particularly insightful comment.

Look, it’s a tall, slender obelisk, surrounded by some flags. The stone is very smooth. You can touch it. It was built for George Washington. I think. You get it.

National World War II Memorial

From this point, I decided to walk down towards the Lincoln Memorial, which is incredibly imposing even from a distance. Along the way I passed the National World War II Memorial, which has individual arches for each state and territory.

Apparently this was opened by George W. Bush in 2004, and despite its slight Art Deco bent (hey, period appropriate I guess?) it blends in with all the neo-classical architecture of DC’s infinite plethora of memorials.

Lincoln Memorial

A short stroll along a frozen-over Reflecting Pool lead me to the Lincoln Memorial. The rather steep steps lead up to an open atrium, in which Lincoln sits in his gigantic throne.

It’s an unusually humbling experience. I’ve always had a great fascination for Lincoln. His achievements obviously speak for themselves, but it’s his intelligence and character that particularly appeal to me. He seems a gangly, oddball, almost avuncular fellow, very much the model of a New World gentleman.

I’m not sure how much he would have appreciated the absurd proportions of his Memorial, or that he’s forever perched in a ridiculous throne, but like all such memorials, it’s not for him. He’s rather famously dead. The monument is for all the people, as many Americans are fond of saying, before moaning about muslins and ay-rabs.

Arlington National Cemetery

Behind the Lincoln Memorial, a bridge takes you across the Potomac river and directly into the Arlington National Cemetery. I’m no particular fan of the US military, and the zealous and hypocritical reverence in which American military service is held makes me a little nauseous. That being said, there’s something about a hill covered in gravestones, marking the resting places of (mostly) men who served what they believed was a higher purpose, that I find quite moving.

People still get buried there, every day, because lest we forget Oceania is always at war. As you walk around you can hear three gun salutes bouncing across the hill, and its easy to get swept up in the ceremony of it.

Also in the Arlington National Cemetery, is a gallery dedicated to the service of ongoing struggle of women in the US military. It has taken an absurd amount of time for women’s military service to be recognised and appreciated. It’s one of those great unsung American Hypocrisies.

After this I walked up the hill to the Kennedy family memorial, where president JFK is buried, alongside his wife and children, including an unnamed stillborn daughter.

You know, some Americans didn’t want Kennedy as president because he was a catholic, and they thought he’d take orders from the Pope. Just in case you thought the nationalistic insanity of America was a new thing.

The plot is downhill from the Arlington House, and faces the Lincoln Memorial and on to the Washington Monument. Quite a view.

The Arlington House is on top of the hill is where the Confederate president Robert E. Lee lived prior to the succession of Virginia. Despite his love of the Union, he sided with Virginia and fled south to Richmond and become a general in the rebel army.

Further along is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, with its large neoclassical auditorium, and solitary guard walking back and forth at regular intervals on a rectangular carpet. There are several unknown soldiers buried here, from various wars. There have been more in the past, though some have been moved to other sites.

From this hill, I could see a large building with absurdly long walls. It took me a few moments before realising that this was The Pentagon. So after spending a couple of hours wandering around the cemetery, I headed down to the Metro station and hopped over to there.

The Pentagon

For understandable security reasons, photos are prohibited at the Pentagon, everywhere except the 9/11 Memorial. The memorial is small but very well designed, a series of stone markers curving out of the ground for each victim, arranged by their birth year. It sits in the shadow of the section of the building that was impacted. I didn’t realise but there was one family that lost three young children in the attack, one as young as 3 years.

Also, I should state now that if you believe 9/11 was an inside job, kindly leave this page.

The National Archives

Unfortunately light was getting short, so I ran out of time to get to the Jefferson Memorial. I jumped on and off the Metro and found myself at The National Archives instead. That’s how Washington DC works. Walk in any direction, find yourself in a historical museum or memorial.

The US Constitution is in here. You can where Obama ripped it in half and wiped his ass with it. Just kidding. You can't, because he hasn't, you dingus.
The US Constitution is in here. You can where Obama ripped it in half and wiped his ass with it. Just kidding. You can’t, because he hasn’t, you dingus.

 

 

Unfortunately the sun began to set, so I ran out of time to get to the Jefferson Memorial. I jumped on and off the Metro and found myself at The National Archives instead. That’s how Washington DC works. Walk in any direction, find yourself in a historical museum or memorial.Also here, the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and various other important documents. which has a remarkable exhibit on the various rights struggles of America, some of which are ongoing. It’s amazing how xenophobic and anti-immigrant America has been since its founding.

But hey, it’s hardly as if America has the monopoly on xenophobia.

The Capitol Building.

I high-tailed it to the Capitol building, which some people mistake for the White House. The sun was setting, it began to rain and the domed roof was under construction, but still, kind of an important place where the important business of governance is obstructed by assholes.

Capitol, oh capitol, what are they feeding you?
Capitol, oh capitol, what are they feeding you?

Next time, spaceships and airplnes and stuff, at the Air & Space Museum.

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