By SKIP TUCKER, Alabama Daily News
Washington, DC – America self-corrects, you know. Somehow. For the large part. We Americans, still the wonder of the world. Reagan said: Still the last, best hope of mankind, but also ever striving to be better than our former selves.
The best, the worst. Choose your corner and your subject. We do both things very well.
Let’s not go all theological here, but for my purposes let’s say there is magnificent intelligence at the center of time and space and social grace who has determined and set right from wrong. We choose, one for one, good or ill. That’s written down somewhere in something important.
If too many tend toward something that’s earthshaking, like a definitive war, then the intelligence might push. Push mightily. Directions change. We return to self-correction on a better path.
In most major wars, the main combatants claim that God – the intelligence – is on its side. During the Civil War, for instance, a captured lieutenant told the enemy general that his side couldn’t win because “God is on our side.”
“I think you will find that God is usually on the side that has the best artillery,” replied the general. It makes sense. Germany had the path to the atomic bomb, then it didn’t, then we did. Hmm.
There’s a point around here somewhere, and it might be this: History often is a tale of struggle and nowhere are America’s struggles better represented than right here in our nation’s headquarters.
The Fourth of July in DC sparkles with more than fireworks. There is history at every hand. The Smithsonian Institute is America’s memory bank. Its seven massive buildings contain actual artifacts – the real things – like moon rocks and the Wright Brothers flyer and Ghost Shirts from the Indian Wars and paintings and documents that will live forever and statuary of every shape and kind. It would take a lifetime to spend 30 seconds looking at each item owned by the Institute.
The city is living, breathing history. It is breathtaking.
It’s four decades since my first visit. Carter was president, may God forgive us for that one. I wrote the Eagle editorial endorsing him, may God forgive me. But we self-correct from bad presidents, sooner or later. Just one cannot ruin us, try as s/he might.
DC is the same as then, and much different. Politics is its business and words are coins of the realm.
When we drove into town two days ago, protesters were outside the Capitol. Good for them. They represent attempts to self-correct, for good or ill. It’s foundational and constitutional.
The city is clean, bright and beauty abounds. Trees, fountains, statues, monuments and sculpture surround. Sitting in the Smithsonian to absorb the setting, I heard four languages spoken around me. Passersby wore garb from around the world.
People are friendly. Food is eclectic. Instead of hot dog stands, there are food trucks offering everything from schwarma to gelato to pizza to tacos to barbeque. Restaurants are expensive, still, and some deserve to be.
Differences from then to now are technological, mostly. Then there were reflex cameras in each hand, now cell phones. And thank God for GPS.
Forty years ago, I failed to dream that one day I might pay more for a bottle of water than for a gallon of gas, and I never considered the thought that I’d pay this much for a gallon of gas.
There were more smiles on the faces of passersby than I remember from before. There were fewer people with signs declaring homelessness or hunger, which to me are euphemisms for hopelessness.
Maybe that’s the key word here for me: Hope. DC, to me, is the Center of Hope for this world. Here rests the burden for the future. It is full of mean, selfish, self-aggrandizing people. It is also full of visionary, pure and selfless people of good heart. Often they are one and the same. Just like you and me.
The White House is protected far more than before because of technology. Terrorists can reach further. Streets that were open before 9/11 are closed tight. We were given an unforgettable tour of the Capitol compliments of Rep. Martha Roby by the excellent Luke McKnight, long may he wave. The tour, available to all, is one of the best things on the plate. We’ll return to do it again. Be fools not to.
There’s the best painting of the Declaration, with Jefferson surreptitiously stepping on the toe of his opponent, John Adams. Wiley Thomas bribed the artist.
In the Library of Congress is one of about 30 surviving copies of the Gutenburg Bible, which changed the world in such persuasive ways. Its very existence, in a wonderfully short period of time, ushered in the Renaissance, the Reformation and altered the course of humanity.
Yesterday, a balmy pleasant day, was a joy. America’s celebration of freedom and independence is taking shape in the city that represents those things. There is a vibrance to the place as the world turns.
The intelligence is on our side and we self-correct, one person at a time.
(Next week: The Alabama Press Association, Alive and Well.)