Just last weekend I had the pleasure – or was it dismay? – of visiting our nation’s capital after a number of years’ absence. My sister accompanied me. She had never visited Washington, D.C., and so was looking forward to taking in as many historic sites as possible.

It was a cool, overcast Saturday; my plan was to start at the Lincoln Memorial, circumnavigating the National Mall to capture as much history and pageantry as we could in two days. Washington is a majestic city, beautiful and crowned in glory.

To gaze upon Lincoln’s memorial was to experience our first deep feelings of unease. Here before us was a man who had summoned such bravery, intellect and love for his United States that he would sacrifice his life to attain freedom for slaves and the unification of the republic by appealing to “the better angels of our nature.” We were captivated by the knowledge that Martin Luther King Jr. had commanded the steps to the memorial and delivered his solemn plea, “I Have A Dream.”

The thrill and goosebumps we felt at that sacred place were tempered by the realization that our current president could never fill the shoes of either statesman. We looked at each other and sighed. This despair would follow us throughout the day.

At the Vietnam and Korean war memorials, our tears flowed freely. We touched the statues, traced the names and sensed the great sacrifice so many had made for this country. That our president sat out a war because of bone spurs and has not visited his troops on battlegrounds shamed us. So many Americans were there to grieve lost family and friends. What must they have been thinking when no meaningful mention is ever made of their sacrifice by the White House?

The World War II Memorial was particularly sad for us. Our dad had distinguished himself in the Pacific Theater but did not live long enough to join so many others who daily are transported, often in wheelchairs, to reflect and remember. Dad was a hero for this nation’s cause. Despair became a smoldering anger.

There were a number of visits. The White House, so fortress-like, was a metaphor. The occupant is oblivious to the history and greatness of the United States. Here at his doorstep are monuments to true leaders and the struggles that made us the envy of the world. He is usually out of town.

But it was at the Holocaust Museum that we truly felt bereft. The building is nothing less than a testament to the danger that results from blatant bigotry, the rise of demagoguery, divisive language meant to belittle some before others and pure hate. The thought of our president’s presence in this hallowed building is a premonition of what can happen, even in our own country.

The visit to Washington was surreal. The two days should have been an opportunity to marvel at what we, as a nation, have accomplished. Instead, my sister and I headed home and mourned for a country that is forgotten.


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