Skip to comments.The Real People in Washington
Posted on 09/13/2004 9:54:25 AM PDT by It's me
I love Washington D.C. I've only been there about five times - three of which were in the dead of winter - but I have always enjoyed myself. I like that every building is steeped in historical significance; I'm from San Diego, and we only have one Historical Building in the whole city. Of course, here in Europe, everywhere you turn there is a building founded by monks of the eleventh century, built upon ruins of Roman settlements from 200 BC, restored for use by some prestigious emperor, military hero, or worldly archbishop of the eighteenth century.
This puts even D.C. to shame, but still, I love that city. I love the monuments that adorn every street corner - there are large ones, like George Washington's obelisk or Thomas Jefferson's giant muffin, and smaller ones, like the memorial of thanksgiving from the Polish citizens of America or garbage cans dedicated to the memory of Jimmy Carter. The collection of citizens present in our capital is wondrous, too. There are people of all beliefs and persuasions, all walks of life trying to convince the rest of the world to protest with them.
I was walking through the Mall on a very hot day in May, when I stopped to buy a rather overpriced ice cream bar. The man selling to me was reading a sheet of paper, all the while crowing about how true its contents were. Luckily, he gave me a copy, and it turned out to be a simplified version of the Communist Manifesto, about how the elite upper classes are keeping us down, throwing black men in jail to rot and forcing poor citizens to stay impoverished. It was a call to revolt! I wish I had it in front of me to copy choice phrases; as I remember, they gave the example of a donkey being lead by a carrot just out of its reach as a metaphor for the American underclass. One of their rallying cries was, "We must rise up and SEIZE THE CARROT!" I imagined thousands of disgruntled proletarians, marching on Washington, chanting that they were coming to seize the carrot. What a fearsome rallying cry that is!
There is a man camped out in front of the White House who has, according to the news articles and literature he handed me, been there since August 27, 1981. That was the day my parents were married. That is a long time. He was protesting, among other things, nuclear wars, every president since Nixon, and Jews. According to the photocopied biographical newspaper article he gave me, he left his wife and job as a jeweler in Arizona in order to pursue some sort of higher calling, which remained obscure throughout the article except for the fact that it involved an attempt to swim the Suez canal and invade Israel, and an episode in London where he threw away his American passport in order to prove that he was a citizen of the world and no county, which lead to a prompt deportation. He also tried once to surrender at an embassy of then-Soviet Russia in Washington and become a citizen of the USSR. I think they kicked him out.
There was a large display on the Mall, sponsored by PETA, advocating vegetarianism by proclaiming that chickens are wise, sensitive animals that deserve to be slathered with love and attention rather than barbeque sauce. Life-size photographs of Pamela Anderson and Paul McCartney were accompanied by inane quotes such as Pamela's "If people knew how special chickens were, they'd never eat another drumstick," or something like that. We also learned that chickens have over thirty different clucks with which they communicate, telling their fellows in the flock such details as whether a predator is approaching by land or by water, and what they thought of the latest independent film shown at their local avant-garde theater.
My favorite incidence of plain silliness was discovered just after we left the PETA display - a vendor had set up his cart selling a wide variety of angry, protesting pins and buttons, most of which railed against George Bush, Christians, and other incarnations of pure evil. I noticed an interesting juxtaposition, however; one pin featured a crossed-out swastika with the slogan "Never Again," while right next to it sat a pin reading "No War!" The only reason that Nazi Germany was forced to abandon its ambitions of world dominance and ethnic cleansing was because of war; if there had been war protestors in 1941 as virulent as the war protestors of today we might be speaking of the Nazis in the present tense rather than the prohibitive future. In fact, if Nazis were to resurface and become a modern threat, I doubt that anything but another war would stop their aims. The participation of the United States and its allies in the Second World War is easy to accept as just warfare. The Nazis are particularly infamous for their horrific regimen of ethnic cleansing that killed six million Jews as well as five million others of various nationalities or categories. By the time the war ended, Germany had taken over most of Europe, with attempts to invade Britain, France, and Scandinavia. But while Germany's allies certainly posed a threat to the United States, as Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor was the impetus that actually prompted us to join the war, Germany itself never really did. Germany's declaration of war against America only followed our own declaration against Japan.
This is amazing because of its close analogy to the Iraqi war we currently fight. The armies of Iraq never attacked the United States, but Saddam Hussein's friends certainly did. And Saddam Hussein ran the country with a brutal, ironclad fist, killing those who opposed his reign and "cleansing" the nation of ethnicities different from his own. Like Hitler, Saddam Hussein would never respond to peace talks or pleading, coaxing appeasements. Like Hitler, Saddam was a vague threat, an overseas dictator doing dangerous things to his own people and his neighbors, but not to us Americans.
One stark difference between the wars exists in the number of casualties. Between America's declaration of war on Japan on Dec. 8, 1941, and the surrender of Japan on August 14, 1945 - a period of three years and nine months - 295,000 American soldiers were killed. We have been at war with Iraq since late March of 2003, a period of one year and six months, and just over one thousand soldiers have died. Casualties of war are not a thing that can be trivialized, but we should be thankful that this second Gulf War is progressing at a very different rate than the second World War, for if the rates were the same we should have 100,000 dead rather than 1,000. And still, for some reason, the war against Hitler sounded more acceptable to the people of the 1940s than the war against Saddam sounds to the people of our own decade.
This is odd, but I suppose it shouldn't be entirely surprising. Americans are rather silly, to put it bluntly. We still shudder over genocide committed decades ago but turn a blind eye to genocide carried out in our own times in places like Iraq and Sudan. Americans with jobs earning a minimum wage of five or six dollars per hour and suffering from obesity complain of poverty while others in the world earn a dollar a week and suffer from starvation. And there are those who would eschew a diet of chicken eggs for fear of hurting the chicken while joyfully condoning human abortion.
Thank God for these wackos and their bizarre opinions, because I doubt they realize what they say, but it is a terrible shame that, unlike our forefathers, when we are offered the opportunity to rise to our occasion and fight the evil enemy of our time, we snivel and shudder and cower in protest because war is sad and uncomfortable and painful. There are things to protest, but I would not line up with the vegans, communists, and pacifists of our time
The perfect memorial.
(Why didn't I think of that?)
With a last name like that - you should stop by The Dubliner when you are in town - the weirdos are usually left outside.
Ah, but the Chief Weirdo of Washington--Teddy Kennedy--can often be found swilling inside The Dubliner. The Dubliner is owned by the IRA, you know, and fundraising activities for the IRA go on there and in other DC-area Irish bars.
I know the owner - NOT in the IRA