Tourism Begins at Home

I was mostly away from blogs this weekend while I entertained my father, who came to visit me for a few days.

He hadn’t been to DC since the 50s, so on our agenda was doing a smidge of the monument thing. He especially wanted to see the Vietnam Memorial, having been a hair’s breath away from being deployed when he was in the National Guard in the 60s. Some of the men he went to basic training with did end up going to Vietnam. Their names are on the wall.

Of all the DC monuments, this makes the most compelling argument toward remembrance. While other monuments seem to glorify or celebrate the achievements of war, the Wall’s austere simplicity tells another story. The wave of names is overwhelming; to consider each life lost this way is a really devastating proposition.

You have to go below ground level to read the names, which are listed in the order the soliders were killed in the conflict. The wall is made of black stone polished to the point where, as easily as the names, you can see yourself in it. It is both funereal and self-reflective, asking the viewer to imagine her or himself among the names.

It is easy to dehumanize what is nameless; quite another proposition to have only names.

We did Lincoln, part of the National Mall, and in the end I think we walked about six miles.

The rest of the weekend was fun and pretty mellow; we saw Burn After Reading, ate at a lot of good restaurants, and drove out to the Eastern Shore for a day, where we experienced “The Crab Capital of the World.” I thought that title belonged to Manzanita Hall at Arizona State University!

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