Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday, September 11: Washington

Sunday, September 11, we went down to Washington to see the African-American Civil War Museum, where we learned that the march of progress is anything but steady and monotonic.  Then we went to the new Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr memorial.

(We came in the wrong side, so it wasn't until pretty late into our monument experience that we figured out the conceit.  I'm posting the photo above so you won't have the same trouble.)

I picked up a copy of Great Speeches by African-Americans in the gift shop, because it occurred to me that while I had heard the same four sentences from the "I Have a Dream" speech about a hundred times, I don't think I had ever read the entire speech.  As I read it, I was getting more and more annoyed by the (very loud) helicopter flying (very low) overhead, back and forth, back and forth (because surely the terrorists are going to strike the Tidal Basin, unless this helicopter stops them!), but then the president's motorcade drove by, so that was all right.

We walked to meet Morgan's parents for dinner at The Old Ebbitt Grill, and on the way we stopped by the Lincoln Memorial, and then the contrasts between the two memorials became apparent.

1.  The MLK memorial might seem pretty large in the photos above, but it is  really quite small as compared to the context of the other memorials, especially the Lincoln Memorial.  Not quite monumental.

2.  The Lincoln Memorial is complete.  Lincoln has ascended to Zeusdom, the text above him reads "IN THIS TEMPLE / AS IN THE HEARTS OF THE PEOPLE / FOR WHOM HE SAVED THE UNION / THE MEMORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN / IS ENSHRINED FOREVER": his work is donemission accomplished.  We don't have to worry about it anymore.

Whereas MLK's statue is very deliberately incomplete: he has not fully emerged from the stone.  There is still work to be done.  There will always be work to be done.

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