Washington, DC, USA
|From Arlington and MLK, Jr.|
In all the times I’ve been to DC, I had never really considered visiting Arlington Cemetary. It’s not because it’s a cemetary. Like Anne of Green Gables, I’ve always liked cemetaries, found them soothing and beautiful. Maybe it’s my politics, or some fear that my politics might be confronted in a place like this. I’m angry still about the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, not only because of the hell it has made of the lives of Afghans and Iraqis, but for the hell it has made of so many American soldiers’ lives.
And yet, none of that mattered today in Arlington Cemetary. It was a beautiful day, on the green rolling hills where thousands finally rest in peace, many with their patient wives resting beside them. All the complicated politics seemed far at bay.
I wasn’t going to take pictures. It seemed somehow antithetical to the mood of the place, too modern for graves going back so many decades, intrusive to their peace. And then I saw this:
It’s unlikely that they’re ancestors of mine, though certainly many of my ancestors earned the right to be on this ground, starting with the War of Independence.
Then I walked across the river into DC itself, to check out the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial, completed since the last time I had been a tourist in DC. I loved the juxtaposition of Martin and the mountaintop.
And I was more than a little surprised to see some very pointed quotes about war, and specifically about Vietnam, carved indelibly into the wall. I’ve often heard our national remembrance of King criticized for leaving out his very vehement anti-war rhetoric, the very thing that may have gotten him killed. I was pleased to see it on the wall, including a quote from his famous speech at Riverside Church, as well as this one: