When I lived in Washington DC, one of the things I loved to do was to get out late at night and walk around the city. I had not lived there for too long and was living in Alexandria near the Pentagon and would rely on the Metro to get me around the city. One night, I made a huge mistake. I decided to start at the Capital, walking west from there through the National Mall to the Washington Monument and from there past the Vietnam War Memorial to the Lincoln Monument. I made my way around the backside of the monument and crossed over the Arlington Bridge crossing the Potomac where at night I could just make out the eternal flame where John Kennedy is buried, and just on the opposite side of the bridge is a metro entrance. Unbeknownst to me, is the Metro closes after a certain time.
The place I stayed was only two stops away if I had been able to hop onto the Metro. But to walk there would have taken another hour or so perhaps. I was exhausted, and I knew that I would have to either find a cab, or walk all the way back to the Smithsonian and hope the Metro station was still open there, or I could attempt to find a closer Metro by going North towards Rosslyn.
So I decided to travel North, but I didn’t follow the roads, I somehow ended up in Arlington Cemetery at night wandering around in the darkness. I was able to use certain markers such as the Washington Monument and the Freeway to my right to keep my bearings as I walked through the pitch black cemetery.
At some point the cemetery came to an end causing me to cross over the freeway, not really sure where I was at until I crossed and looked to my left and spotted the Iwo Jima Memorial. I knew I was heading in the right direction and within fifteen minutes or so I had found the Metro and soon would be back at Pentagon City.
My feet, my legs, my body hurt from walking that long of distance, but it is a night I’ll never forget. Although I was lost and tired, by knowing where I was, by being able to use markers such as the Washington Monument and then the Iwo Jima Memorial I knew I was heading in the right direction even if it was pitch black and quiet and no directional signs pointing me towards the metro I made it.
When I think about this little adventure of mine metaphorically, it does sadden me. These memorials and statues that have been erected in memory of our history as a country, from our first president, to Lincoln to the men and women buried at Arlington Cemetery, land once owned by Robert E. Lee’s family, to the Iwo Jima Memorial, are reminders of our past and wars we’ve fought, and lessons learned, and even more importantly I suppose I wonder how it is through all this we still seem torn and divided as a nation at times. Especially when we have these memorials to remind us of where we’ve been, what it took to get here and the lessons we should learn from these moments in our history.
Why is it I wonder that we as a country are seemingly so divided and I wonder what causes the divisions? Does the division come from the top, from those in power, the lobbyist, using wedge issues as a way to sow dissension and division? Or does it begin at a grassroots level, the voice of the people being heard and we elect the people into office who hear the message and run on a platform to bring about change? Could it be a little bit of both?
In the next few weeks I plan on writing about this conundrum and will attempt to answer these questions. I hope to be a voice of reason, and tackle these tough subjects as Thomas Paine once did in his pamphlet titled “Common Sense” and attempt to, if possible to better understand these divisions and what we can do to bring closure to the issues that divide us.