Washington: Understanding the legacy of a city.
As a society and as individuals, one of the big mistakes that we commit and that we stumble from time to time in the course of the generations, is to forget where we come from and take for granted the achievements and victories, because we tend to forget the effort it took to obtain what was presumed. Forget our origins is what allows us to not repeat the errors of our history and is what leads us to the construction of our identity, that self-image that you defend any offense. That is where, sometimes, we must pause and remember who we are, what we were and, above all, what we dream of being. Because the path to the goals always should be a way unfinished, that impels us to continue by wading into it. Welcome to a tour of the identity of a country. Welcome to Washington, DC. Let’s go find those places that forged my passion for this nation. And, at the end of this journey, I’ll tell you something that moved me the bowels like no other city had done.
In other texts already published, we’ve talked about my passion for the history of this country and the icons that this city has. We have talked tirelessly of my fondness for the struggle for independence led by George Washington and, on more than one occasion, I’ve told you something through a scene written by Aaron Sorkin for The West Wing or A Few Good Men or The Newsroom, with Washington as the stage background but, also, as the protagonist of intangible stories. So I grew up loving the stories of north america, through film and television, pushed to the library when it was just the scenes on the screen -the family’s collection first and libraries later – to find out more about the characters I had discovered.
And, then, in the pages that I went through during my childhood and adolescence I discovered the characters and the scenarios built by the moments in modern history. And I found Martin Luther King, of course, but after pages, I discovered to Medgar Evers. Evers was a pillar of the civil rights movement in Mississippi and was murdered by Byron De La Beckwith, a member of the KKK, making it a sort of martyr in the struggle for equality in Mississippi, where even his brother was the first black mayor to be elected in 1969 in the town of Fayette. Evers was buried with military honors of a veteran of the Second World War at the National Cemetery of Arlington. That would be my first stop in a city that breathes history and respect.
I came out of the Washington Marriott Georgetown after a brief breakfast and I took one of the public bicycles to cross the Potomac river and go by Arlington National Cemetery, not through the main entrance, but one of the shortcuts from Rosslyn. After having presented my respects to the War Memorial of the Marines -that famous image of soldiers raising the flag at Iwo Jima – I walked a little bit to access by N. Marshall Drive and walk by Curtis Walk to my destination. I confess that I spent long on the first attempt, and it is that, despite the fact that we are talking about one of the most important figures in the struggle for civil rights in the united States, his tomb is exactly the same as the hundreds of thousands that fill the second national cemetery largest in the country, surpassed only by Calverton National in Long Island.
Standing in front of the tomb of a previously unknown character for many and I have saved articles, speeches, and a couple of books difficult to find, I wondered how it was possible that so many people could ignore one of the great builders of the reality of the country and, as well, as fast as I thought, I get the response in a clear manner. I see undulating and moving the air in the form of a helium balloon, about 30 feet below. A balloon with the american flag tied around a vase that accompanies the tomb of Jesse Anderson Hart, a veteran also of world war ii, died in December, 1966 and that his family just visited a few hours before seen.
And it is here, in Arlington, is a tribute to all. This is not of individuals but of all those who have given their life for the country. It is at this point that I receive the first emotional blow of the place in which I stand and the eyes get me wet seeing it was lost in the distance, the row of seemingly endless headstones where lie the remains of soldiers, in some cases, next to wives or husbands. Tears come to my eyes at such display of respect for the history and for those who have built. It is here, where, before getting to the tourist spots of the Arlington National Cemetery, I understand the need to visit these fields sacred.
After passing by the Memorial of John F. Kennedy, one of the most important places in my imaginary child and that I do not disappoint in the slightest, but that has multiplied the nostalgia and respect for the President still in the top of the list of my favorite occupants of the White House, I walked towards what would be the conclusion of my morning: the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This crypt, which was installed to honor a soldier killed in the 1st World War and that has become a monument to those who have lost their lives without being identified in defence of their country around the world, it is the absolute sample of the greatness of the american army. Because the greatness of the armed forces has nothing to do with the number of atomic bombs were built or launched, or with the arsenal of planes and submarines ready to enter in action. The greatness of the Armed Forces of the united States has to do with the ability to remember those who have fallen and never allow to be forgotten, because the death of a soldier occurs when the country forget his sacrifice.
The way out is slow. Not for tiredness, but because each crypt is calling me attention and I see names and religions mixed together that remind me that, in the end, regardless of the origins, those who rest here have been part of the history of the country, beyond the small differences that, sooner rather than later, must be overcome to give way to a sentiment of union and patriotism that feeds off of pride and not of prejudice. I cross back to the Potomac river and I turn to the Memorial of Lincoln. And, then, the reality of a dream fulfilled begins to make present in my mind and begins to fill every pore of emotion.
High and observing the development of a city and, therefore, of the country, Lincoln, looking towards the Capitol, past the Washington Monument and does so knowing that the story is built and will continue building for many more years. There, Lincoln observed Martin Luther King give his famous speech I Have a Dream in 1963 and the work of Lincoln demonstrates its timelessness, echoing up to our days, when we look back and we discover in the interior the inscription of the extract from his second inaugural address in which he said “we will strive to finish the work that we begin, and heal the wounds of a nation”, wounds that are still open and that, day in and day out, someone in every corner are looking for healing, no matter that the battle seems almost lost at times. I look up, towards where Lincoln observed, the gigantic, the result in constant change in the country for which he fought and, then, I lose the view by reviewing each word of the inscription that crowns this majestic space: In this temple as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever.”
It is time to walk to the Capitol and the grandeur of the Washington Monument. What do I do going on next to the reflecting pond that has seen great moments in the last few decades, from presidential inaugurations to bulk up projects with a strong social burden, or demonstrations against the War in Vietnam. There I go heading for the Monument that has given form to all the images of what it means to the history of this city and of an entire country, but before I have to pause, to pay tribute, again, to those who have defended liberty in any corner of the planet. And the life I have prepared the luck of doing it in a way incomparable: the Memorial of the Second World War, opened in 2004 and serves to honor the more than 400-thousand americans killed in the armed conflict.
A ring of granite columns, each representing a state of the American Union, hold the call Wall of Freedom, where 4,048 Gold Stars each represent 100 fallen in the war and a clear message: Here we mark the price of freedom. Between the arches that symbolize the Pacific and the Atlantic, with the eagles in a victory sign and branches of oak represent the strength of a nation, I climb the stairs back to the National Mall taken aback by the price that has been paid in the course of the years. There, looking at this space for a tribute to the men and women walk in order to understand and absorb a piece of their story, it stops next to me an older woman, pushing a wheelchair where her husband observed the memorial with a kind of devotion that I have not seen in any of the other visitors. And then I realize.
The man wears a cap that says World War II Veteran. I look at him and I approach to thank him, to take his hand and tell him that they will never reach the words to recognize what he and his colleagues, that comes to remember, made more than 70 years ago. He looks at me, smiles and tells me that the best way to do this is to fight for the freedoms won. I smile and for the third time in the day, fill me with the eyes of tears, I invade the emotions deeply and I understand, finally, why I am in this city and in these places.
34 years ago, in 1983, David Copperfield made the that remains, according to the book of Guinness records, the illusion greatest of all time. In an act that earned him international fame and consecration as the greatest illusionist of the time, Copperfield disappeared the Statue of Liberty in front of an audience of hundreds of thousands of people watching on television. At the end of the illusion, Copperfield spoke about how the united States is a nation that was built upon the freedoms that have been won with the sacrifice of many and that desaparecerla was an idea to imagine what a world without freedom. He talked about the migrants who built a great nation, and that, upon coming to the United States in search of the american dream, the first thing that they saw on the ships that brought them from a Europe torn apart by war and hunger, was the Statue of Liberty, with her torch lighting the way in one hand and the declaration of Independence in the other. He spoke about how we must never let anyone go away that freedom and that never, no matter how much time passes, we must make it for granted. “Freedom is the true magic,”says Copperfield to box in an interview, and 34 years later, those words resonate making it clear that the freedom should not ever be erased, no matter that, even now, from the spheres of power, there are those who are wanting to create the maximum amount of tricks for desaparecerla.
Standing in front of the Capitol, observing the present and the past of the united States, sac a dollar bill and I remember an episode of The West Wing, from the pen of one of the greatest modern writers of film and television: Aaron Sorkin. In episode 18 of the first season, Jeff Breckenridge, a nominee to be Attorney General for the Civil Rights teaches him to Josh Lyman a ticket like the one I have in hand and says: “The seal, the pyramid… is unfinished. With the eye of God watching. And the words Annuit Coeptis. ‘The, God, Favors our Undertaking’. The seal is incomplete on purpose, because this country is destined to be inconclusive. We are destined to continue improving, to continue discussing and debating. It is our duty to read books of great scholars of historical and speak of them”. And then, as in machine, I look at the Capitol, with a reflection of light hitting a window and turning the gaze back. I see the Memorial where Curt Lyon and his wife reminded me that the struggle continues on other fronts. I look to where Lincoln watches over us and reminds us that a government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the Earth. And, beyond that, passing the graves of John F. Kennedy and Medgar Evers came to the tomb of Jesse Anderson Hart and I clearly see that balloon with the american flag fluttering with a slight breeze that morning circulated through Washington. And I understand that, clearly, just as they did in each of their foreheads, and each of their struggles, we are also required to never take for granted the freedoms achieved. Because it’s not just the soldier dies when you forget their sacrifice. Also he dies his legacy. That legacy for which so many gave that Lincoln called the last full measure of devotion.
Carlos Dragonné. Twitter
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